Photo credit: Denis Drever
Last week, I was honored to be invited to attend “Saving Every Woman, Every Child,” the Canadian Summit on maternal, newborn and children’s health. Held at the historic Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto, it was an amazing event – a gathering of leaders and advocates dedicated to reducing preventable deaths and increasing public support and awareness.
The Fairmont has seen its share of world figures over the years – presidents, queens, kings, etc. But I bet it’s never seen a line-up like the one at this summit. Over the course of three days, we heard from leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Harper, Tanzanian President Kikwete, Queen Rania, the Aga Kahn, World Bank President Jim Kim, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and many, many others.
The summit featured a keynote address by Melinda Gates, who made the case that investing in the health of women and children is not only the right thing to do, but is a primary driver of economic opportunities as well.
As part of the summit, Prime Minister Harper announced a commitment of $3.5 billion CAD for maternal, newborn and children’s health from 2015 to 2020. The government will target three priority areas: reducing disease burdens, strengthening health systems, and improving nutrition.
Canadian ONE members have been vocal about their support for these programs, and have gained the attention of Canadian leaders. During the summit, I was honored to meet with the Honorable Christian Paradis, the Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie.
We discussed the importance of the summit, and I presented him with our vaccines petition, the GAVI report and a ONE GAVI soccer jersey. He was impressed by the number of signatures (almost 6,000!) from Canadian ONE members, and was especially happy that a number of his constituents had signed (in fact, a number of these were on the first page – which was more luck than strategy, but worked!).
He also thanked ONE for all of our efforts, and said that we were a great partner. And while they have not made their announcement on GAVI funding yet, we’ll keep up the work and continue to push for a big increase.
Overall, a great opportunity for ONE, and an important moment in the progress against extreme poverty and preventable disease. As many of the participants said – success is within arm’s reach. Many of us discussed how refreshing it was to be at an event that highlighted progress and opportunity – as well as challenges. As long as we – governments, corporations, leaders, NGOs, ONE members – remain committed to the fight, we’ll win.
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