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Archived - Statement from Minister Paradis: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

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October 17, 2014 - Our great nation of Canada is built upon generations of families who, through war and peace, struggled to preserve a free and open society–a society that provided an opportunity for all to advance, regardless of race, religion or economic status. As Nobel Prize-winning economists have concisely summarized, development is freedom. By increasing personal freedoms we remove barriers to innovation and ingenuity and lay the foundation for healthy communities, accountable governments, and respect for the rule of law. Only with these conditions in place will we achieve sustainable economic growth and permanently reduce poverty.

Around the world, as many as 2.4 billion people are living on less than $2 per day and millions are affected by war and conflict in countries like Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and other parts of the world. These numbers are large and we often have trouble relating to them. Instead we can relate to a mother trying to feed her starving child, or a father giving up everything he owns to lead his family out of a war-torn country to a refugee camp.

That is why Canada works with developing countries, other donors, Canadian non-governmental organizations, multilateral institutions and the private sector to improve the lives of people in developing countries. Our efforts focus on increasing food security, securing a future for children and youth, stimulating sustainable economic growth, ensuring security and stability, and advancing democracy. In this way, we are helping that mother to feed her child and we are providing support to the refugee camp where that father has led his family.

But because our Government believes in the importance of empowering families both in Canada and abroad, improving the health of mothers, newborns and children around the world is our top development priority. This is an extension of the work we have done in Canada to improve the lives of families by providing parents with the tangible means to improve the lives of their children.

This is why Prime Minister Harper announced that Canada would provide $3.5 billion between now and 2020 to further our work on maternal, newborn and child health. This builds on Canada’s initial investments of $2.85 billion since 2010 when the Prime Minister made maternal and newborn health the marquee commitment of the G-8 Summit in Muskoka. Non-governmental organizations, the United Nations and heads of state around the globe have praised Canadian leadership on this important issue.

Canada’s approach is simple: first, we are strengthening health care systems for women and children by increasing the numbers of doctors and nurses as well as the local government’s ability to monitor progress by improving civil registration and vital statics; second, we are supporting nutrition by encouraging breastfeeding and ensuring essential micronutrients are available; and third, we are reducing the burden of disease through the provision of vaccinations.

Our Government is working with over 70 Canadian partners in 125 countries. Some of the impressive results achieved to date include: 180 million children under five receive two doses of vitamin A each year–a key nutritional element for the immune system to protect the body from disease; over 1.9 million pregnant women receive iron and folic acid supplements to ensure healthier pregnancies; over 5.8 million children receive life-saving vaccinations; and there are now 75,000 more health care workers trained in developing countries.

However, more work needs to be done. The United Nations notes that since 1990 maternal deaths have decreased by 45 percent. The goal for 2015 was to decrease maternal deaths by 75 percent. Since the Muskoka Initiative began in 2010, the number of deaths of children under five decreased from 6.9 million to 6.3 million in 2013. That’s 600,000 children who would have died without our collective efforts. But, if current trends persist, the world will only meet Millennium Development Goal 4—to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two thirds between 1990 and 2015—by 2026. We must sustain the global effort to end the preventable deaths of mothers and children. 

This is why Canada has made it our greatest priority in the Post-2015 process to ensure that there continues to be a stand-alone goal related to maternal, newborn and child health. As a nation of families, we relate on a personal level to the struggles of mothers and children living in poverty. Canadians can be proud of the leadership of our Government in reducing the tragedy of preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths. Going into the Post‑2015 process, I call on all of Canada’s allies, in civil society, the private sector, and at the state level to work with us to build the global momentum to fight for women and children to ensure no one is left behind.

Christian Paradis
Minister of International Development and La Francophonie

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