Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 47

Thursday, February 2, 2012
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Maternal Health

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, for many years I have worked in various maternal health clinics in Uganda. On several occasions, I have shared my experiences with you. According to the World Health Organization, every 90 seconds a woman dies from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Ninety-nine per cent of these maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Honourable senators, I firmly believe that maternal health is a human right, one that all women in all parts of the world are entitled to. That is why, in June 2010, at the G8 and G20 summits, when our government decided to pledge $1.1 billion for maternal health, I was extremely proud to be a Canadian. I thank Prime Minister Harper for leading the way on the issue of maternal health around the world.

Last year, while I was in Uganda, I visited a maternal health clinic located near a neighbourhood where I was raised. I have visited this clinic for a number of years. Recently, I spoke to honourable senators about how this clinic was extremely overcrowded, forcing two women to share a single bed. I spoke about how there was no electricity or running water in the clinic, which meant that women who delivered their children in the evening gave birth by candlelight.

I also drew the attention of honourable senators to the fact that women would only be allowed in the clinic if they brought their own “mama kit,” which included a candle, a piece of plastic for the mother to sit on, sutures and gloves.

Honourable senators, this past January 2012, I was in Uganda, and I returned to this same clinic. I was very pleasantly surprised. I was informed that the clinic now had electricity and water so that mothers no longer had to receive sutures by candlelight. I was informed that mothers were no longer asked to provide their own mama kits and that there were more beds available for bench patients. When I asked the doctor what brought about such great change, he informed me that the clinic had countries such as Canada to thank, as it was initiatives like the one that our country championed in 2010 that were responsible for these improvements.

Honourable senators, that was a very proud and important moment for me as I saw firsthand the difference that Canada, as a nation, can make in the world. Canadian policies really can change the lives of people around the world. According to a World Health Organization study, maternal mortality dropped by one third between 1990 and 2008.

Honourable senators, I am certain that if Canada continues to take leadership roles on important issues such as maternal health, we will make even more differences in the world.