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Canadian Minister Travels To Mali, Mozambique To Start Rolling Out Canada’s G8 Muskoka Initiative

The Canadian government started rolling out its maternal health program in Africa as Minister of International Co-operation Bev Oda embarked on a seven-day visit to Mali and Mozambique, the Globe and Mail reports (York, 8/27).

A press release from the Canadian International Development Agency described the trip, which concluded last week, as “an important step to further develop Canada’s way forward on the G8 Muskoka Initiative to improve maternal, newborn, and child health.”

During her trip, Oda met with several government officials, donors, aid and civil society group representatives and health experts. “Oda signed a Letter of Intent with the Government of Mali to signal Canada’s renewed partnership to help prevent the deaths of thousands of mothers and young children,” according to the press release. 

“Canada’s [$1.1 billion] G-8 Muskoka Initiative has been overwhelmingly welcomed and supported. During my discussions and visits to national and district hospitals and more remote community health centres, the most urgent needs identified were those of access to closer health facilities, providing additional trained health workers, and helping to deal with malaria and malnutrition,” Oda said. “Canada’s support of national plans through a comprehensive and integrated approach to strengthening health systems can deliver long-term sustainable results for mothers and infants in Mali and Mozambique,” she added. Oda noted the shortage of health workers as “particularly problematic” (8/27).

The Globe and Mail points out that family planning has not been part of Oda’s announcements so far. In an earlier press release, “Oda’s office said the Canada-Mali partnership ‘will concentrate on training health workers, strengthening Mali’s comprehensive primary health systems at the local level, improving nutritional health and reducing the effects of diseases on mothers, newborns and children under five,’” the newspaper writes. “However, her comments are drawing criticism for her emphasis on traditional culture as a main reason for the low rate of contraception use,” according to the article.

Heather Johnston, the Mali country director for Marie Stopes International, responded, “[I]t’s not a question of demand but of supply … The main obstacle is poor supply.” According to Johnston, “Women in rural areas – about 75 percent of the population – simply do not have reliable access to contraception” (8/27).