During this holiday season, Canadians come together to care for one another -- we find ways to support our local communities. As we get ready to celebrate the beginning of 2015, I would like to share with you my wishes for the children who are suffering through the world's worst humanitarian crises.
As prosperous governments continue in their retreat from the kind of global commitment required to deal effectively with dire poverty, women's empowerment, health and educational infrastructure, they inevitably leave the world a more troubled place. That threat is compounded multiple times by the world's nations refusing to deal seriously with the challenge of climate change.
Canada is the only G7 country that doesn't have a publicly-owned, profit-driven development finance institution (DFI) that can help private business invest in jobs, growth and markets in low-income countries. We're not just missing an opportunity to raise people out of poverty: we're also missing a chance to build Canadian business while earning returns for Canada's stretched taxpayers.
When hundreds of girls are kidnapped in Nigeria, disappearing into the night for months and counting, the world is outraged. When boys are handed guns and forced into militias, the world is shocked. When children work as slave labourers in mines, there are global cries for action. But these atrocities are only part of the picture.
My conversation with Sierra Leone shows once again that there is much work to be done, and that international community must urgently step-up its response. Canada can and must do more to help the people of West Africa, and must turn its announcements into commitments on the ground. As the United Nations said, a humane world cannot allow Africa to suffer on such an extraordinary scale.
In September, I was granted my request for an emergency debate in the House of Commons to address the Ebola crisis. Unfortunately the Canadian government's response to date has been scattered and slow. Only a fraction of the protective equipment donation announced a month ago has actually made it to Africa, while health workers there are at risk because they have run out of face masks and gloves. What was heralded as a promising Ebola vaccine developed in Canada has taken too long to get to clinical trials and it will be months before it is available in affected communities.
Will the Government of Canada make a second humanitarian contribution to South Sudan to avoid yet another human catastrophe? Moreover, given that nutrition is one of the key pillars of the Every Woman Every Child Initiative, it is counterproductive to wait until South Sudan is classified as a severe famine before intervening.
In a new global report conducted by Plan entitled Hear Our Voices, we spoke with more than 7,000 adolescent girls and boys from 11 countries in Asia, Africa, Central and South America. We wanted to learn more about what issues and concerns adolescent girls faced and how boys felt about those issues too.
On October 11, 2014, the world will celebrate International Day of the Girl Child. Adolescent girls are among the world's most vulnerable populations, and face a slew of unique and very real challenges. The international community needs to recognize that an empowered woman is the most effective catalyst for sustainable change, and it starts when they are teenagers. Protecting young women from violence increases their odds of completing school, and pursuing a successful and meaningful career!
Will the government show leadership in responding to this deadly outbreak and offer help needed to contain and control it, including much needed field hospitals and other equipment? And will the Government consider deploying more health care specialists and armed forces personnel in collaboration with the U.S. to face the outbreak?
Some six million children under the age of five die every year and there are still nearly 300,000 maternal deaths annually. It all comes down to the political will and necessary funds to make it happen. Canada is a recognized leader in both. In May, Canada committed a further $3.5 billion over five years to help eliminate these unnecessary deaths.
September 8 is International Literacy Day, marked with events in schools and communities around the world, and highlighted by a United Nations celebration and conference in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Despite the promising gains of the UN's worldwide "Literacy as Freedom" decade that ended in 2012, more than 770 million people over the age of 15 cannot read or write.
Africa's 600 million hectares of uncultivated land -- more than half the global total -- adds up to a recipe for a better food future. Agricultural innovation, education, and the resulting empowerment of women and girls promises to make the coming population boom a turning point toward truly sustainable development.
As Liberians and other West Africans bravely struggle to contain Ebola, Canada's foreign engagements are shifting away from they types of initiatives that could help prevent such an epidemic. Working with countries like Liberia to strengthen health systems does not seem to be in Canada's interests any longer.
South Sudan, the world's youngest country, did not mark its third anniversary on July 9 by celebrating, but by struggling to survive what the United Nations (UN) recently described as one of the gravest humanitarian and political crises in the world's history. The question that begs to be asked is will the Canadian Government now provide a second round of humanitarian funding? Thousands of children are at risk of dying this year.
When the headlines fade, the daily, persistent, and pervasive violence against girls and women around the world will continue unabated and generally unreported. And it will persist until people and their governments start connecting the dots between these headline-making atrocities and the everyday, out of the headlines, violence targeted at girls and women on public streets, in the household, in the workplace, and in and around schools and why these incidents happen.