The next steps in improving the health of women and children around the world will involve improved data collection and vital statistics, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday.
Harper spent part of his day discussing the issue with American billionaire Bill Gates, whose foundation works to improve health and eliminate poverty in the developing world. Gates also met with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at separate events today in Ottawa.
Gates and Harper participated in a roundtable with international aid organizations, where they discussed the next steps for improving maternal, newborn and child health.
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Harper said one of the next steps is to develop systems of vital statistics and civil registration.
"As we start to drive these numbers further down, we're going to come to some real data quality issues pretty quickly. And we're going to actually want to know that there are people out there who have been registered, their births, their deaths, and so we actually know what we're talking about in terms of results," Harper said.
Canada has made it a goal to improve maternal, newborn and child health around the world, using its platform as host of the 2010 G8 and G20 meetings to push for increased funding. Since then, the government has pledged more than $6 billion to those targets.
This year marks the deadline for the UN's millennium development goals, which include improving health for mothers, newborns and children. The UN will set its next set of development goals in the fall.
Keep maternal health on UN agenda
The meetings with Trudeau and Mulcair will also take place this afternoon.
Gates said the past 15 years have seen more progress than ever before and the next 15 could see even more.
"The millennium development goals really did make a difference. They took a few very measurable things, childhood death being among the most important, and allowed us to look at different countries and say who are the exemplars and what are they doing," he said.
Earlier Wednesday, Gates met with International Co-Operation Minister Christian Paradis and about a dozen aid organizations to discuss work on an anti-malaria vaccine.
Dave Toycen, president of World Vision Canada, said it's vital to keep the health of women, children and babies on the world's agenda.
Toycen said work will continue on getting vaccines, bed nets and micronutrients to people who need them, but will renew the focus on newborns, where progress has been slowest, as well as focusing on children in remote and fragile states, and keeping vital statistics records.
"Many children, for example, don't have a birth certificate. And a birth certificate is so critical for a country to be able to track what's happening. If people are dying or children are dying, what are they dying of?"
"It can be even dangerous. You're more subject to potential trafficking as well when you don't have your own identity."