Maternal, newborn and child health - Media Backgrounder

The global challenge

Maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) is an important issue in developing countries, where the poor health of women, newborns and children 1 leads to millions of preventable deaths and exacerbates global poverty. Tremendous progress towards saving the lives of mothers and children has been made, but much remains to be done.

  • Globally, maternal mortality has nearly halved since 1990. And yet, across the globe, almost 293,000 women still die each year during pregnancy and childbirth2.
  • From 1990-2012, the number of children under the age of five dying of preventable disease every year has been cut in half (12.4 million down to 6.6 million).
  • In 2013, 6.3 million children died before their fifth birthday, largely succumbing to diseases or conditions that could be prevented or treated with access to simple, affordable health interventions2.
  • A child born in sub-Saharan Africa is almost 16 times more likely to die before the age of 5 than a child born in a developed country3. Sub-Saharan African and South Asian countries have the highest rates of maternal, neonatal and under-five mortality.
  • Out of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be achieved by 2015, the two goals that are the least likely to be achieved are the ones concerned with the health of women and children. MDG 4 targets a reduction in child mortality and MDG 5 targets a reduction in maternal mortality.
Plan Canada’s impact for mothers and their children

Plan’s work, supported by the Government of Canada and over 25,500 generous Canadians, is providing life-saving health care to mothers, babies and children in over 2,700 hard-to-reach communities across seven countries (Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Tanzania, Zimbabwe).

  • Early findings of Plan’s work across the seven countries has resulted in 256,952 women receiving essential health care before, during or after childbirth; and 641,857 infants and children receiving vaccinations, medications and treatments to keep them alive.
  • Plan’s work in five countries (Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Zimbabwe) has shown remarkable preliminary results, including:
    • Women who received care from a skilled health provider at least four times during their pregnancy increased from 45.5% to 63.2%
    • Mothers and babies who received health care within 3 days of childbirth increased from 38.7% to 54.5%
    • Children who were vaccinated against measles increased from 41% to 65.7%
    • Live births attended by skilled health personnel rose from 50.3% to 56.1%
    • More than 63,000 health workers were trained in maternal, newborn and child health
  • In Tanzania, mothers reached by Plan’s programs who received postnatal care within 3 days of childbirth rose from 30% to 71%.
Plan Canada’s approach to maternal, newborn and child health

Plan employs a two-pronged approach to reducing maternal and child mortality:

  1. Strengthen the health care system so that moms and their babies can get adequate health care even in remote rural areas. Interventions include training health staff to gain knowledge and MNCH skills; improving health facility capacities to reach out to the most marginalized, underserved, hard-to-reach, vulnerable populations; providing basic medical care, and comprehensive emergency obstetric care.
  2. Raise awareness about the need to access health care among women, men, and children; encourage communities to engage in local health management especially women; involve community decision makers and men in understating the importance of MNCH care. A significant part of Plan’s strategy is ensuring that gender equality is integrated across all aspects of these projects.
The Muskoka Initiative & Plan Canada
  • Plan Canada, along with five other Canadian organizations, played an important role in making sure that maternal, newborn and child health was made the top priority for the G8 and for the Canadian government in 2010. The resulting Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health is a funding strategy that seeks to address the significant gaps that exist in maternal, newborn, and child health in developing countries.
  • Flowing from the 2010 Roundtable on the Muskoka Initiative, and at the request of the Honourable Minister of International Cooperation, Plan Canada’s President and CEO, Rosemary McCarney, and Dr. Dorothy Shaw, coordinated the establishment of the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (CAN-MNCH). The Network is comprised of over 70 Canadian partner organizations working together in more than 1,000 regions around the world to improve the lives of the most vulnerable mothers and children.

1 Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, 2011
2 The Lancet, 2014,
3 World Health Organization, 2012,

For more information about Plan Canada and the Because I am a Girl initiative visit and

Media contacts:

Dena Allen, Senior Media and Public Relations Manager, Plan Canada
T: 416 920 1654 ext 326 | C: 416 723 6340 |

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