What part of “maternal,” “newborn” and “child” health is hard to understand?

I attended the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) Summit, “Saving Every Woman, Every Child: Within Reach,” last week in Toronto. I thought I was informed on this issue. At the end of day 1 – a day called Delivering Results for Mothers and Children – I realized I knew about 15% of what I heard and saw that day. Conclusion: Immunization and Nutrition are easy to identify, costly to research, and inexpensive to deliver.

DH headshot3By the end of day 2 – Doing More Together Globally – I was completely amazed at how the United Nations, national governments, for-profit corporations and non-governmental organizations had come together in various forms of partnerships for the express purpose of helping pregnant women who want to have their children born, born healthy and stay healthy while staying alive and healthy themselves to do so.

I attended the Innovative Financing breakout session and saw a remarkable, simple product that will save untold numbers of lives. It was initiated by a mechanic who had a dream and convinced Canadian government officials to accept the premise of his drawings and provide $50,000 to support working with the financial and medical communities to develop a business plan and a prototype. That $50,000 was leveraged into millions and will ultimately result in a cost of about $5 per life saved – both mothers and children. The device will likely also be used in Canadian and American hospitals because of the ease and safety of its use in the birthing process.

Melinda Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation noted among the reasons she and her husband put their money into the MNCH initiative was the recognition and treatment of all lives as having equal value and “when you make the right investments you unlock the potential of millions of people.” She noted that results to date are a 47% decline in infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are down by 250,000 per year. Mrs. Gates concluded by noting that every dollar that is being invested in this initiative is showing a $9 return economically. Keeping mothers alive to care for their children and children alive to become adults is key to the economic success of the developing world.

Day 3 – Real Action for Women and Children’s Health – was proactively kicked off the afternoon before by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s announcement of an additional $3.5 billion to continue the initiative from 2015 to 2020. When Canada announced in 2010 it was adding $1.1 billion to the existing $1.75 billion in funding for maternal and child health that $2.85 billion was leveraged into a G7/G8 commitment of $7.3 billion, much of which became foundational for partnership funding with the private sector and NGOs. The financing format that has been developed since 2010 indicates that $3.5 billion could easily be leveraged into $12 to $15 billion dollars; and a transition of the economic structure of dozens of countries – through saving the lives of women and children.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the World Bank Group came to Toronto to share that the success of the MCNH initiative is changing the way the world does development work because it is extremely effective. The most common words heard from government, business and NGO leaders were, “Thank you Prime Minister Harper” and “Thank you Canada” for taking leadership in a way that is changing the world.

So why are leaders in Canadian opposition political parties attacking MNCH? They think that funding abortion should be part of the initiative.

It is counter intuitive to think that enhancing the health of a mother who wishes to have her child is accomplished through that child’s death. It is counter intuitive to think that enhancing the life of a newborn is accomplished through that child’s death.

The focus period of the medical personnel, innovators, governments, financiers, NGOs and women themselves was described as the first 1,000 days of the child’s life – from conception to 2nd birthday; something stated by several speakers. The focus is maternal health, newborn health and child health. The result is an incredible series of networks and coalitions that are working together to save lives.

Accessing the skills and interests of various sectors in nations around the world, a viable commercial model has been developed through alignment around common goals. Governments and NGOs have networks of local delivery mechanisms. Stimulated innovators are providing effective and efficient new ideas for “products.” Private sector corporations are funding production and developing new markets. Nations are establishing the foundation for sound economies.

And, Canadian politicians want abortion services?

In most of the countries where maternal, infant and child mortality is being dramatically reduced because of these efforts abortion is illegal.

Imposing abortion services on this model would result in the departure of governments, corporations and NGOs that are critical to the success of the initiative. An initiative, by the way, that arises out of the world’s agreed upon Millenium Development Goals. None of which included abortion. MNCH is to date the 21st century’s most successful life saving initiative.

Sometimes, no matter how good a nation has become at something you simply don’t export it to the world because, well, it’s simply the right thing to do to keep Canada’s abortion debate at home.