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Canadian Leadership Saving Lives of Women and Children in sub-Saharan Africa

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The Birth Registration project will accelerate progress on maternal, newborn and child health

May 2, 2014 – Vancouver, British Columbia – Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

Today, on behalf of the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, the Honourable Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, Minister of National Revenue and Member of Parliament for Delta—Richmond East, British Columbia, joined by Nina Grewal, Member of Parliament for Fleetwood—Port Kells, British Columbia, announced $20 million toward the Birth Registration project with UNICEF that aims to make every child count in sub-Saharan Africa by ensuring they are registered.

Improving the health of mothers, newborns and children and reducing the number of preventable deaths are Canada's top development priority. In 2010, as part of its G-8 presidency, Canada launched a global effort—the Muskoka Initiative—to mobilize global action to reduce maternal, infant mortality and improve the health of mothers and children in the world's poorest countries. Through the Muskoka Initiative, global leaders committed $7.3 billion toward reaching this common goal. This was followed up in September 2010 by the United Nations Every Women, Every Child initiative, of which Canada is a leading supporter.

"Thanks to global action, kick-started by Canada's Muskoka Initiative in 2010, and to be reignited at this month's Saving Every Woman, Every Child summit in Toronto, maternal mortality rates are declining and millions more children are celebrating their fifth birthday,” said Minister Findlay. "UNICEF is an important partner in Canada's continuing efforts to save lives and improve the health of mothers and children in the developing world.”

Registering children ensures they can access government services that can protect their safety and security. Canada is supporting efforts to enable countries to develop child protection systems to ensure the safety and security of every girl and boy. The Birth Registration project with UNICEF announced today will increase the number of registrations of children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa by strengthening health information systems. This will mean that more children will have greater access to essential services such as health, education and social assistance.

Significant progress has been made, and our common goal is within arm's reach. That is why Prime Minister Harper is once again taking action to mobilize the world. Canada will host Saving Every Women, Every Child: Within Arm's Reach, an international summit that will shape the future of global action on maternal and child health issues. The summit, to be held in Toronto on May 28–30, 2014, will build on Canada's leadership and chart the way forward for the next phase of global efforts. Improving civil registration and vital statistics systems across the developing world is critical to ensuring the health of newborns and children, and is an important component of the Muskoka Initiative. Further discussions in this important area will figure prominently at the May summit, with key partners such as UNICEF at the table.

"This commitment from the Government of Canada will ensure some of the most vulnerable children in sub-Saharan Africa have a legal identity and are no longer invisible—an essential first step in ensuring children can access lifesaving health, education and other vital social services,” said David Morley, UNICEF Canada's President and Chief Executive Officer. "Birth registration is also essential because it improves a country's ability to gather statistics that guide decisions on health care programs that can save children's lives.”

"Canada is at the forefront of the global effort to improve maternal and child health. Our focus reflects the values of millions of Canadians who believe that we cannot stand idly by while the poorest and most vulnerable suffer deaths that are easily and inexpensively prevented,'' said Ms. Grewal. "Together, with partners such as UNICEF, we are working to ensure that all children around the world have access to health care and to build a strong international framework to safeguard children's rights and protection.”

Together with UNICEF, Canada is leading the effort in strengthening civil registration and vital statistics systems and ensuring that all children around the world have access to health care and other essential services so that they may live healthy and safe lives.

Quick Facts

In developing countries, around half of the children under the age of five do not have their births registered. A large portion of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa.

Birth registration is the first step toward legal existence, and the benefits include citizenship and access to essential services, such as health, education and social assistance.

The causes of maternal and under-five child mortality in developing countries are largely preventable with increased access to affordable and cost-effective solutions that most Canadians take for granted.

Women and children in developing countries are significantly more likely to die from simple, preventable causes due to a lack of proven, affordable and cost-effective solutions that most Canadians take for granted.

Progress is being made: the number of women who die each year during pregnancy or childbirth has dropped by 47 percent, from 543,000 deaths in 1990 to 287,000 in 2010.

The global number of deaths of children under the age of five has also dropped by 45 percent, from nearly 12 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012.

Canada is providing $2.85 billion in funding between 2010 and 2015 under the Muskoka Initiative to save the lives of women and children in developing countries.

Canada is on track to meeting its Muskoka commitment: 80 percent of the funding is already disbursed.

The Saving Every Woman Every Child: Within Arm's Reach summit will bring together Canadian and international leaders and experts, Canadian charities, businesses, scientists, developed and developing countries, international organizations and global foundations to ensure that maternal, newborn and child health remains a priority of the global development agenda.