Statement by UNICEF Canada's President & CEO David Morley on Canada's renewed commitment to maternal, newborn and child health

From Saving Every Woman, Every Newborn Summit

TORONTO, May 29, 2014  /CNW/ - The Government of Canada today demonstrated its continued leadership in maternal, newborn and child health with a generous new commitment of $3.5 billion to improve the health of mothers and children for the period of 2015-2020.

UNICEF Canada welcomes this renewed commitment to end the preventable deaths of mothers, newborns and children. These funds will save lives and build stronger communities and countries. This announcement has the potential to catalyze further commitments from other global partners and leaders.

Recently there has been rapid progress in ending preventable deaths of women and children. Through effective and more affordable treatments and strengthened health systems, the global rate of under-five deaths has been cut in half in the last 25 years and fewer women are dying in pregnancy and childbirth.

Despite these gains more must be done.

This year we have seen the increasing focus on the need to address infant mortality.  Newborn deaths account for a staggering 44 per cent of total mortality among children under five. The first 24 hours after birth are the most dangerous for a mother and her child; almost half of maternal and newborn deaths occur then. While we must continue to reach children with critical health interventions like vaccines and micronutrients, the youngest and most vulnerable children need our attention.

New investments to improve the health of women and children must be directed towards the poorest, most vulnerable and the hardest to reach. While global progress has been made, close scrutiny of that progress shines a light on the women and children who are not benefitting from our global investment.  This is unacceptable and must urgently be reversed.

To better understand where we are falling behind, investments in civil registration and vital statistics are essential. Currently one in three children under the age of five – 230 million children worldwide – do not have a birth certificate. Birth registration is not only a critical first step in ensuring children have access to life-saving health care but, along with death registration, it allows governments to monitor and make informed policy and budgeting decisions to strengthen health systems.

TheSaving Every Woman, Every Newborn summit has been an opportunity for important discussion on progress made and work that still needs to be done to end preventable deaths. We must now turn these discussions into action to ensure children are at the centre of the post-2015 agenda in order to save more lives.

About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

SOURCE: UNICEF Canada

For further information: Melanie Sharpe, UNICEF Canada, 416-871-7345, msharpe@unicef.ca

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