I had the great pleasure to be invited by the Government of Canada to an international summit Saving Every Mother, Every Child: Within Arms Reach last week.
Maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) has been the flagship initiative of Canadian aid since Prime Minister Harper first championed the issues as host of the G8 summit in Muskoka in 2010. The progress since then has been impressive in these past four years saving lives and improving the health of millions of women and children around the world. The dedication and personal stories shared at the summit by field workers, NGO, multilateral partners and the government itself were truly inspirational.
Educating girls has a strong impact on their health
In my meeting with Christian Paradis, Canada’s Minister for International Development, we discussed the interdependent nature of international development priorities. We shared the view that health and education are more closely related than most other sectors. We know that educating girls has a dramatic impact on women’s health-seeking behavior -- for women and their children.
Women who are more educated about health have fewer, safer and healthier births. Their children are 50% more likely to be immunized and live past the age of five. The nutritional status of families increases significantly when mothers are educated.
We also know that healthy children come to school ready and able to learn. That’s why the Global Partnership for Education is exploring opportunities to maximize international investments across the health and education sectors.
Simply stated, better health leads to good education outcomes and good education outcomes lead to better health.
Supporting government-owned priorities
Rosemary McCarney, President and CEO of Plan Canada, noted that the Muskoka Initiative launched by the Canadian Government and partners has helped to end fragmentation in the health sector and strengthened health systems to deliver real results for mothers and children.
That’s exactly the work that the Global Partnership for Education is pursuing in the education space. Our new funding model creates a powerful set of incentives to encourage developing countries to improve their policy framework around basic education, consider the affordability of education relative to resources, and invest in and improve those areas that are weak. To ensure country ownership and sustainability, developing countries have to commit to raising their own domestic education spending while donor partners are asked to better align their support to country priorities. This will promote mutual accountability for progress towards quality education for all children.
When the global community set forth to create the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, we knew that these goals are mutually supportive and interrelated. It is important that we remember this basic principle when discussing the post-2015 development framework and negotiating successor goals.
I applaud Canada’s leadership in MNCH and appreciate working in partnership with them to ensure the millions of children saved through better health interventions receive the education they deserve.
International investments across the health and education sectors would be a good step forwards. So would better coordination between ministries, agencies, and organisations campaigning on the issues. The links between the two sectors must be strengthened post 2015 if we are to achieve real change. One will not succeed without the other. There are few more dramatic illustrations of this cross-over, for instance, than the estimate that the lives of 2.1 million children under 5 were saved between 1990 and 2009 because of improvements in girls’ education.
The EFA Global Monitoring Report 2013/4 contained a full chapter looking at the links between education and other MDGs, in order to show the extent of the links between them. The hope was to rally sectors to work together for change. A short booklet of infographics bringing these links to life can be downloaded here: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002231/223115E.pdf.
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