Data on births, deaths key to saving lives

For one million babies born every year on this planet, it’s as if they were never here. That’s how many newborns die on the day of their birth, along with millions more in their first month of life, all without ever having been formally documented.

OTTAWA — For one million babies born every year on this planet, it’s as if they were never here.

That’s how many newborns die on the day of their birth, along with millions more in their first month of life, all without ever having been formally documented.

That lack of vital birth and death registration in poor countries will be a major topic of discussion at this week’s international meeting on improving the plight of children, newborns and mothers in the developing world.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hosting the three-day conference in Toronto, after having made the issue his signature international aid priority in 2010.

Birth registration is a key to making progress on the issue, said Rosemary McCarney, the co-chair of the Canadian Network for Maternal Newborn and Child Health.

“If you don’t know who’s being born, and you don’t know how long they’re living, and you don’t know what they’re dying of, how the heck can you do good health care policy in countries that are resource-poor?” McCarney said.

“You have to spend every dollar to make it count.”

McCarney is helping to lead a Canadian network of 70 organizations that was formed after Harper announced the so-called Muskoka Initiative at the 2010 G8 summit, which Canada hosted in Ontario cottage country.

International figures such as philanthropist Melinda Gates, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, the Aga Khan and Queen Rania of Jordan are among those who will join dozens more in the world of international aid starting today in Toronto.

Harper will open the event Wednesday afternoon, and is widely expected to use the gathering to burnish Canada’s global aid credentials, which have faced criticism since his government froze foreign aid spending in 2012 as a deficit-fighting measure.

In 2010, Harper committed $2.8 billion over five years to the issue, but McCarney’s network is calling on him to up the ante with a new commitment of $3.25 billion at this week’s summit.

The government says it will have a major announcement this week. In a series of speeches and announcements over the past week, cabinet ministers have been trumpeting Canada’s — and Harper’s — leadership on the issue as they dole out the last of existing money. And they’re acknowledging the work that still needs to be done.

“More than 100 developing countries around the world lack fully functioning civil registration and vital statistics systems,” Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said Sunday in announcing $20 million over four years to the Inter-American Development Bank’s fund for civil registration.

“An estimated one-third of the world’s births and two-thirds of the world’s deaths are not properly registered.”

The proper registration of newborns is seen as one way to lower what experts say is the unacceptably high 2.9 million children who die within 28 days of being born each year. Another 2.6 million still births occur annually.

The data was compiled in a series of papers drawing upon 55 experts in 18 countries that were published last week in the medical journal The Lancet.

Dr. Mickey Chopra, the chief of health for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said not being able to track births has meant an overall lack of funding to help young children.

“If you don’t do that, it doesn’t get attention, it doesn’t get resources to make it better,” Chopra said in an interview.

“Donors are not putting money into newborn health, and as a result, the progress we’re making on reducing newborn deaths is the slowest compared to maternal deaths or child deaths.”

Dr. Peter Singer, the head of Grand Challenges Canada, a government funded, non-profit agency, said getting better vital statistics also has an added benefit: it increases accountability on where the money is spent to make it more effective.

“That focus on accountability was absolutely pivotal in saving more lives of women and children,” said Singer. “And that was the prime minister’s and Canada’s leadership with the original Muskoka Initiative.”

Harper and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete were appointed co-chairs of the UN commission on accountability for women’s and children’s health in the fall of 2010 following the G8.

A discussion that ties together accountability and vital statistics is to take place Thursday during the Toronto conference.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Some workers are terrified at the prospect of returning to work at Olymel, where hundreds were infected with COVID, says a worker.
Advocate file photo
Second death linked to Olymel COVID-19 outbreak, Alberta Health confirms

A second death has been linked to the Olymel COVID-19 outbreak, Alberta… Continue reading

A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 in Rome, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse via AP
Health Canada approves AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

Canada has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

A fallen Western Red cedar tree at Francis/King Regional Park in Saanich, B.C., Thursday, May 26, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Logging delay agreement for B.C. old-growth tree stand helps endangered spotted owls

Deal announced to hold off logging watershed for a year

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

FILE - Cameron Forte (right) and his Fraser Valley Bandits are 2-0 at the Canadian Elite Basketball League Summer Series after being the Saskatchewan Rattlers. (CEBL photo)
CEBL releases 14-game 2021 schedule, hopes to see fans attend games in person

Season will kick off with the Edmonton Stingers and the Fraser Valley Bandits

FILE - Keegan Messing performs during the Men’s Short program at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. If the world figure skating championships do go ahead in a bubble in March in Sweden, there is a good chance Canada won’t be there. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Messing leads Canadian figure skating team at world championships

Messing was the only Canadian to compete on the Grand Prix circuit this season

Nurses episode, titled “Achilles Heel,” was first aired on Global in February 2020. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Global pulls ‘Nurses’ episode after scene with Orthodox Jews deemed anti-Semitic

TORONTO — Global TV says it has pulled an episode of Toronto-set… Continue reading

Lady Gaga is offering a $500,000 reward for the return of her two French bulldogs. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Lady Gaga’s dog walker shot, French bulldogs stolen in LA

Dog walker expected to survive injuries

Calgary Flames defenceman Mark Giordano tries to help goaltender David Rittich stop a shot from Ottawa Senators right wing Drake Batherson during first-period NHL action Thursday, February 25, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Colin White scores two goals to lead Ottawa Senators to a 6-1 win over Calgary Flames

Colin White scores two goals to lead Ottawa Senators to a 6-1 win over Calgary Flames

Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Art McDonald is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Most Read