I met a lot of people and shook many hands during the United Nations General Assembly this week. It was an honour to be a delegate at this important event, but it is an even greater honour to be a Canadian delegate. We have so much to be proud of and I was reminded of this each time I was greeted with congratulations of Canada’s leadership on improving maternal, newborn and child health.
Although much progress has been made on improving maternal and child health, we have yet to achieve the goal of MDGs 4 and 5. The Millennium Development Goals, from a Canadian perspective, do not have an expiration date. We will continue to see the job through to the end and continue our efforts of saving every woman and every child.
Canadians have shown tremendous results in our efforts to improve the lives of women and children, working in over 1000 of the poorest regions of the world. Together, we have helped to support improved health facilities, training of healthcare workers and access to vaccines, medicines and nutrition, which has contributed to a 600,000 decline in child deaths between 2010 and 2013, as well as a significant decrease in maternal mortality rates.
By consolidating our resources and bringing together multiple players, from governments, industry, academics, NGOs, health associations, we have been able to build on our collective experiences and achieve greater impact. The Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (CAN-MNCH) is an excellent example of Canadians working together towards a shared goal and this success was highlighted in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s speech during the Every Woman Every Child panel session at the UNGA. We are setting the example for other countries.
We were proud last May, during the Saving Every Woman, Every Child Summit in Toronto, when the Canadian government announced a commitment of $3.5 billion for maternal and child health efforts. This week, a Canadian contribution of $200 million was announced for the newly established Global Funding Facility, of which $100 million is earmarked for civil registration and vital statistics. With an estimated one-third of the world’s annual births and two-thirds of annual deaths not legally recognized, birth registration and vital statistics are a critical first step for ensuring that every woman and every child counts and is counted.
Rajiv Shah, Administrator of USAID, speaking on behalf of the USA and President Obama during the Every Woman Every Child panel session, explained how, “When Canada launched the Muskoka pledge, the USA took it seriously”. That type of ‘friendly competition’ is what is needed to garner greater support and to rouse the type of funding boost that is urgently needed in order to reach our goals.
Personally, I am proud to have had the opportunity to represent CAN-MNCH this week and the great diversity of organizations that are involved. Collaborating between disciplines and bringing the pieces together is so important but also so rewarding. The one thing that I am most proud of, though, more than anything in the world, is being a mother of a healthy and happy child. There is no greater pride than that. Let us do our best to never take that joy away from anyone.
Dr. Jennifer Blake, CEO, Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.
September 29, 2014
Dr. Jennifer Blake
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