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Maternal, Newborn and Child Health

onourable senators, yesterday marked the first day of the Government of Canada’s Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Summit in Toronto, entitled Saving Every Woman, Every Child: Within Arm’s Reach. The summit, hosted by Prime Minister Harper, will bring together global leaders and Canadian experts to build support and ensure that maternal, newborn and child health remains a global priority.

Over three days, Canada will be centre stage for key international participants such as Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN; his Highness the Aga Khan; Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan; and Melinda Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Canada is a world leader with regards to MNCH. It has been a top development priority for our country, so much so that we have been recognized globally for our efforts. Through the Muskoka Initiative, Canada has committed a total $2.85 billion to maternal and child health programming from 2010 to 2013.

In the past decade, global efforts have proven that significant progress is possible, but there is still more to be done.

At the opening of the summit, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete voiced that giving life to another human being should be an act of celebration, not an act of mourning.

I had the opportunity to attend two plenary sessions on saving lives through immunization and increasing global attention on nutrition. Vaccination and nutrition are among the most cost-effective investments in global maternal and child health. Immunization is critical in addressing child mortality. One child in five misses out on basic vaccines. Speakers emphasized that we must turn our efforts to reach the fifth child, the one left behind.

Canada is one of the largest donors to basic nutrition programs. Minister Yelich stated that nutrition is far more critical to child and maternal health than we had originally thought. Nutrition in adolescence, when women reach child-bearing age, is of particular importance.

Prime Minister Harper recognized that as we move closer to 2015, we need to renew our commitment to MNCH and build on the progress of the UN Millennium Development Goals. He said:

The momentum is with us. We have, within arm’s reach, the power to end the preventable deaths of women and children in the developing world. Together, we hold these lives in our hands.