Speech Article from  Public Health Agency of Canada

Archived - Speaking Notes for the Honourable Rona Ambrose Minister of Health - Statement to the World Health Assembly Plenary Session - May 19, 2014, Geneva, Switzerland

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Mr. President, Dr. Chan, Honourable Ministers, distinguished delegates, good afternoon.

Canada is pleased to take part in this 67th session of the World Health Assembly, and to advance our common goal of improving global health. I am particularly honoured to be addressing this Assembly for the first time.

As all of us know infectious diseases see no borders or boundaries - these diseases do not discriminate.

As our world becomes more interconnected, infectious diseases are more easily transferable from one country to another.

Globally, vaccinations are one of the most important measures available to prevent the spread of disease. In some cases - in certain parts of the world - entire diseases have been eradicated thanks to vaccines.

However, inadequate medical care, mal-nutrition and diseases continually threaten the lives of mothers and children in developing countries.

No mother should have to choose between herself and the health of her baby.

But the most recent international data shows that more than 6 million children die before their fifth birthday, in places like sub-Saharan Africa.

And nearly 300,000 women die in pregnancy.

This is doubly tragic when we consider that most of these deaths could have been prevented.

All it would have taken is clean water, nutritious food, or the most basic health treatments, including vaccines.

We cannot stand idle while women and young children in developing countries suffer deaths that are easily prevented.

Maternal and child health is Canada's leading development priority.

Before Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper drew the world's attention to this crucial issue, we were falling short on reducing child mortality and curbing maternal death.

Prime Minister Harper has long been committed to this issue, including going to Haiti in 2007.

Due in large part to the Muskoka Initiative, and subsequent global action, maternal mortality rates are declining. And millions more children are celebrating their fifth birthday.

We can eliminate preventable deaths among women, children and newborns and we can save millions of lives that hang in the balance.

Canadian organizations and health experts have played a crucial role in what we have achieved to date.

One of the best investments we can make is to save lives through immunization and Canada is proud to be a leader in this.

Today, nearly 80 percent of children in many low-income countries are protected against life-threatening diseases through routine vaccinations.

Much of our recent progress is thanks to the work of the GAVI Alliance, a unique global public-private-civil society partnership that brings together:

  • Leaders of the vaccine industry;
  • Governmental organizations; and
  • Major foundations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to increase access to immunization in poor countries.

I'm proud that Canada has committed over $270 million to support GAVI's work since 2002. And just recently, I announced that Canada will contribute another additional $20 million to GAVI.

This funding will support the implementation of innovative approaches and technologies to help get effective vaccines to the children who need them most.

This will involve everything from improving management of vaccine supply chains, to increasing the availability and use of data on vaccine stocks, to streamlining procurement of equipment in order to lower costs.

I'm also proud of Canada's ongoing support for the Micronutrient Initiative, which continues to be a global leader in scaling up direct nutrition interventions, and improving access to essential vitamin and mineral supplements for women and children in developing countries around the world.

Through these and other initiatives, Canada will continue to push women's and children's health to the forefront of the global agenda.

And Canada will once again drive the world to action by hosting a high-level Summit on maternal and child health in Toronto at the end of this month.

Through this Summit, Prime Minister Harper will accelerate efforts on critical maternal, newborn and child health issues, like increasing the number of children who can receive all of their essential vaccinations and helping women and children receive the vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need.

The Summit will bring together global experts -- including the GAVI Alliance's Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Seth Berkley, who is a CDC-trained epidemiologist and a leading global vaccines advocate -- and key development partners such as the Micronutrient Initiative.

Dr. Chan, I look forward to welcoming you back to Canada with our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, as we host the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Summit.

This Summit will be where we continue to build momentum for meaningful global partnerships to ensure that maternal, newborn and child health remains at the center of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Thank you.

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