After six years of violence, Syrian children need us to believe in them more than ever. We must to ensure that an entire generation of children with dreams for the future doesn't get lost in the rubble. I have been allowed to grow up in peace into a future that allows me to work for my dreams. Syrian children deserve the same.
Already in the grips of an impending famine, fragile Somalia can't handle much more. But while hunger rates grab news headlines, there is a much quieter killer at work: tuberculosis. TB is one of the top ten causes of death globally, and Somalia is estimated to have one of the highest incidence rates in the world. Meanwhile, here in Canada, it's International Development Week. It's a chance to highlight and celebrate all the good work Canada has done globally. I find this difficult.
Over 2 billion people, and a growing share of the world's poor, live in the 35 countries considered fragile or conflict states in 2016. And whether we are talking about pandemics, war, or prolonged occupation, these conditions devastate health systems and have lasting impacts on the physical and mental health of affected populations.
More than half of the world's child deaths occur in fragile places like South Sudan and Afghanistan. Yet Canada only commits 25 per cent of its official development budget to these areas. To go the distance to reach the world's most vulnerable people, the figure needs to change.
According to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, AIDS-related deaths have dropped by 45 per cent, malaria death rates are down by 60 per cent and tuberculosis mortality has diminished by 47 per cent. These are exciting achievements, but not nearly as exciting as the possibility of ending those diseases for good.
Some mothers feel grateful that they're still alive and at least have their children with them. One mother, who has been raising her children in this tented settlement for the past four years, said she wished they had stayed behind in Syria. She said it would be better to have died than to be living as they are.
Children are the most vulnerable in every situation. When a country is torn apart by civil war, shattered by economic collapse or rocked by a major earthquake, children always hurt the most. They also have the most to lose, with their educations incomplete or barely even begun.
Pregnancy during war, natural disaster, or economic collapse isn't simply a time of joy and wonder; it's often tainted with anxiety and fear. For these women, it's more like nine months of holding the thin red line of courage against almost impossible odds. The strength and resilience needed to do this is astounding.
I was fortunate to have a happy, healthy childhood. I had nutritious food, a comfortable home, and an endless supply of clean water. But on World Health Day April 7, I think of children whose experiences couldn't be more different than mine.
Millions of children in countries such as Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan live and die never having officially existed. Their communities are riddled with conflict, rocked with instability or dispirited by isolation. Their governments are either unwilling or unable to provide even basic health care.