April 20, 2020
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
The Honourable Karina Gould, P.C., M.P.
Minister of International Development
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Dear Prime Minister and Minister,
As Canada’s global health community, we are writing in strong support of the exemplary global leadership that the Government of Canada has shown in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Your recognition that women and girls are disproportionately affected by crisis, and your championing of the health and rights of vulnerable communities worldwide through continued critical health investments and interventions is needed now more than ever.
We, your partners in global health, support your government as you continue to invest and direct funding to protect the health of Canada and a world where viruses and diseases know no borders. We are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis and we are here for you to report on the impact of the pandemic and on how we can ensure Canada’s actions can have the greatest impact, including:
- Safeguarding the hard-fought gains we have made together in crucial areas, including gender equality, nutrition, food security, and in curbing preventable diseases such as polio through robust vaccination programs. Immunization alone is saving two to three million lives each year globally. These investments into health systems strengthening are the backbone of building strong immune systems in populations, reducing long-term and chronic illnesses, and increasing resilience to diseases and viruses, like COVID-19.
- Continuing your gender responsive approach to reach the most vulnerable populations, especially women, adolescents and children. We know that women are among the most impacted by pandemics - they are often the primary caregivers of their families and they form the vast majority of frontline healthcare workers.
- Ensuring that the strides Canada has made in sexual and reproductive health and rights, including increasing the availability of crucial family planning services as well as reducing maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, are not lost. Since 1990, global maternal and child deaths have dropped by 44% and 59%, respectively. We know from the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015 that these life-saving services became harder to access during, and after, the epidemic, resulting in increased maternal and newborn mortality rates. We encourage Canada to continue its global feminist leadership to ensure that these services are part of an integrated response to COVID-19.
- Drawing on our collective expertise and making evidence-based recommendations that will contribute to the fight against COVID-19, such as the importance of scaling-up Canada’s WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) specific efforts.
Not only is Canadian aid the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. Flattening the global curve of this pandemic early, combined with key gender-responsive investments, will help avoid a second wave of COVID-19 in low-income nations and among extremely vulnerable populations in refugee camps and other fragile contexts, especially women and girls. Then, and only then, can we ensure the health and safety of Canadians and people around the world.
As members of the Canadian global health community, we express our deepest gratitude to the Government of Canada for its unwavering commitment to assisting those that need it most and for paving the way for a more united, resilient, and equitable global community. We, the undersigned, are working on the front lines of this pandemic and will continue to do so in solidarity and in partnership with you and Canada’s international COVID-19 response.