Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 76

Tuesday, May 8, 2012
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Global Maternal and Child Health

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, as many of us celebrate Mother’s Day in Canada next weekend with our families, I rise today to speak of challenges mothers face in the developing world.

More than 350,000 women die annually from complications during pregnancy or childbirth, and 99 per cent of these women live in developing countries. Every year, more than 1 million children are left motherless. Children who have lost their mothers are up to 10 times more likely to die prematurely than those who have not.

In September 2000, Canada, along with 188 United Nations Member States, made a promise to come together and fight the extreme poverty that over 1 billion people in the world suffer from each and every day. By way of eight Millennium Development Goals, we as a country set targets and deadlines that would help fight hunger, reduce child mortality, combat diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, and improve maternal health.

I have worked on this issue of maternal and childhood health for a number of years and have risen in this chamber on many occasions to share my experiences working with some of the world’s most marginalized populations. A few weeks ago, when I returned to Uganda to continue my work on maternal health and malaria, I had the pleasure of visiting a maternal health clinic that was recently built in a rural area located outside of the capital city. While at the clinic, I had the opportunity to talk to several nurses who worked at the clinic. They shared with me stories about how this clinic has helped so many women living in the surrounding villages.

One nurse brought me to a young woman named Rebecca, who was now the proud mother of three children. Having given birth twice before, Rebecca was confident that she would be able to give birth with little difficulty. Unfortunately, she was mistaken; her baby was positioned in a way that made it difficult for it to be released through the birth canal. Luckily, Rebecca was able to get to the clinic in time, where a doctor performed an emergency Caesarean section.

The nurse went on to explain that had this happened last year, before the clinic was established, Rebecca would likely have suffered a fistula, which is a childbirth injury that leaves women incontinent, isolated and ashamed. Being able to access the most basic natal care changed Rebecca’s and her children’s lives. They still have a full-time mother.

Honourable senators, since the Millennium Development Goals were established in 2000, we, as a country, have made great strides in improving maternal and childhood health for those living in the developing world. This is just one example of how we can make a difference in the lives of women and children living in the developing world. However, much progress still needs to be made before the 2015 deadline.

On September 18, 2000, Canada signed the United Nations Millennium Declaration, which stated:

We recognize that, in addition to our separate responsibilities to our individual societies, we have a collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level. As leaders we have a duty therefore to all the world’s people, especially the most vulnerable . . .

Now we must stay true to this promise.