Partners keep MNCH in the spotlight at Canadian Conference on Global Health

31 OCTOBER-3 NOVEMBER 2010 | OTTAWA

Dr Mickey Chopra, UNICEF, at the 17th Annual Conference on Global Health in Ottawa
Dr Mickey Chopra, UNICEF, at the 17th Annual Conference on Global Health in Ottawa

Organizer: Canadian Society for International Health
Event dates: 31 October 2010 to 3 November 2010
Venue: Ottawa, Crowne Plaza Hotel


2 NOVEMBER 2010 | OTTAWA – Speeches from PMNCH partners — CIDA’s Beverly Oda and UNICEF’s Dr Mickey Chopra — brought the issue of maternal, newborn and child health to the forefront at the 17th Annual Canadian Conference on Global Health in Ottawa.

The three day conference, hosted by the Canadian Society for International Health, kicked off on 1 November 2010 with a keynote address from Ms Oda, Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation, in which she shared details about where Canada plans to spend the $1.1 billion her government committed to maternal and child health at the 2010 G8 Summit in Muskoka, Ontario.

The next morning participants heard from Dr Chopra, Chief of Health and Associate Director of Programmes at UNICEF and PMNCH board member, about the challenges that remain despite the gains the international community has made through effective health interventions targeting women and children.

CIDA minister unveils details of Canada’s maternal and child health initiative

Eighty percent of Canada’s contribution to women and children’s health will flow to sub-Saharan Africa, Ms Oda told participants at the 2010 Conference on Global Health ―specifically to Mozambique, Mali, Malawi, Nigeria, southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Tanzania―as the region faces the greatest challenges in addressing maternal and child mortality. In addition, Canada will address gaps in maternal, newborn, and child health in Afghanistan, Haiti, and Bangladesh, she said. The Canada-based Micronutrient Initiative and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative will also continue to receive funding through the Muskoka Initiative.

"With increased effectiveness and focus on proven interventions, Canada's international efforts in health are making a significant contribution to a healthier world,” she said. “I am proud of Canada's leadership in maternal and child health, polio eradication, and nutrition."

We need to reach sub groups to reach MDGs: Chopra

The global health community has made remarkable improvements for women and children’s health around the world, Dr Chopra told those gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ottawa for the second day of the conference on 2 November 2010. But he said there is bad news hiding behind this success story.

“The rate of progress is in no way sufficient if we’re going to reach our Millennium Development Goals,” he said, explaining that progress has stalled in many countries where programs are benefiting women and children in areas where they’re easiest to reach but having difficulty making any impact among more vulnerable populations.

“But the good news is we do have the interventions and the knowledge,” he affirmed. In order to reach the maternal and child health related development goals he said the global health community must take the lessons learned from programs that have achieved rapid progress and figure out how to deliver them in a more equitable manner. He stressed the need to remember the underlying social implications behind achieving success, with education and empowerment being two of the most critical factors.

Taking water and sanitation into consideration can also have a dramatic impact on maternal and child health interventions, said Dr Chopra, not only because it is a commonly neglected health issue but also because carrying water often plays such a central role in the lives of women and girls that they’re unable to take part in education.

“We need to identify sub groups and look beyond the averages because this is where we’re going to make the greatest gains,” he said. Through the proper use of resources and meaningful engagement with local community groups, Dr Chopra said it is possible for the international community to bring about a systematic reduction of financial barriers for women and children and ensure they enjoy the benefits of quality care.

“I’m very optimistic. I believe we have the world’s attention,” he said. “The onus is very much on us as activists and policy leaders.”

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