Reflections on the Maternal, Newborn, Child Health Summit in Toronto and WASH

PM Harper moderating a High powered panel

Prime Minister Harper moderating a high powered panel

Thanks to a push made by the WASH Canada network partners, see our letter to Minister Paradis, I was invited to attend the recent high level MNCH summit (May 28-30) in Toronto. The summit was very interesting and quite the ‘event’ in downtown Toronto. Besides the hosts, Prime Minister Harper and many of the government’s key ministers, almost all the ‘who’s who’ in international development were invited AND showed up. Highlights were hearing the commitment from people like Queen Rania from Jordan, Melinda Gates, Ban Ki-moon (UN), Jim Yong Kim (World Bank), Margaret Chan (WHO), President Kiwete of Tanzania, Rajiv Shah (USAID) and the Aga Khan. You can see a list of speakers and the agenda by clicking on the links below:



Queen Rania Al Abdullah: "Educated girls transform nations" #savinglives summit.

Queen Rania Al Abdullah: “Educated girls transform nations” #savinglives summit.

It was clear that Canada is seen as a world leader in promoting MNCH. The heads of nations, development agencies and foundations spoke about the need for better data collection, improving health and strategies for saving lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable.


While the audience was made up of experts, from a variety of fields, there was unfortunately not a lot of audience interaction and participation. It would have been nice to have been able to query and seek clarifications from the formal speakers.


During the summit PM Harper announced that MNCH is Canada’s #1 development priority and announced an additional C$3.5 Billion in new money dedicated to MNCH from 2015 to 2020. There will no doubt be a call for proposals on the heels of this Summit. WASH proposals will of-course need to make the link to MNCH and lives saved. Read the PM Statement


As we all well know, there is plenty of data showing clear linkages with WASH and its impact on MNCH results:


The Partnership for MNCH’s knowledge summary on WASH Impact


Unfortunately, the fact that there has been very little coordination between CAN-MNCH and the Canadian WASH Sector became quite evident to me. While access to water was cited as one of the results in the closing plenary video (200,000 people reached since 2010), references to WASH were scant and not really elaborated on during any of the panel discussions at the summit.


This means that all of us in the WASH sector need to do much more. The WASH Canada coalition has to do a better job of actively connecting with the Government of Canada’s ‘Saving Lives Initiative’ and CAN-MNCH. Worldwide WASH Coalitions and groups need to make a concerted effort to link with this ‘hot’ topic, while there is attention and consensus internationally on tackling it.


If we join our voices and resources and are better able to address WASH issues within MNCH – our reward will be healthier and happier mothers and children in places around the world where this is most needed.

Wishing you all a wonderful summer filled with meaningful WASH action!




Lotika Shaunik Paintal


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