FACING FORWARD EXCLUSIVE ONE ON ONE WITH the Honourable Beverley J. Oda Minister of International Cooperation
By Honoré Gbedze
TAN: How would you describe the relationship between Canada and Africa in terms of International Cooperation?
• Canada showed significant leadership with respect to Africa in the last few years.
• We were the first G8 country to double our aid to Africa, a full year ahead of the deadline and have maintained that level. In 2003, Canadian aid to Africa was half the amount it is today.
• We are consistently a leading donor to the World Food Programme with 57% per cent of our contributions going to Africa
• Last year, we were the second largest single-country donor to the World Food Programme. We contributed $305 million for the WFP to buy food aid for those in need.
• Over 50% of Canada’s food aid went to Africa;
• 65% of our MNCH Muskoka Initiative to save the lives of mothers and children went to Africa;
• 63% of our health support went to Africa; and
• 61% of our food security and agricultural support went to Africa
• We remain committed to helping our African friends.
TAN: On your recent visit to Africa on Humanitarian grounds, what was the situation there and how did Canada assist to resolve the issues there for the long-term?
• During my time at Dadaab, I witnessed families who faced severe malnutrition, hunger and loss because of the famine.
• the camp originally built for 90,000 now is housing 426,000 and more than 1,000 people are arriving each day
• I met with humanitarian workers who were distributing 337 metric tons of food each day, they were registering new arrivals each day.
• I met one young woman, who was 15 years old, and had arrived at the camp with a two week old baby. Three weeks prior, she fled Somalia because her husband joined the terrorist group Al-Shabaab. This 15 year old girl fled, and gave birth on the roadside, before struggling for another two weeks to reach the camp. Sadly, her story is not unique.
• Bandits kidnapped a woman who was travelling with her husband and children. This woman was also pregnant and near term. While they were in captivity, she went into labour, and the kidnappers abandoned her and her children on the roadside. She gave birth on the road, while her children watched. Yet, determined to find help for her children, she still made it to the refugee camp.
• The primary purpose of my visit was to assess the current humanitarian crisis.
• Across Africa, CIDA is addressing longer term development through a number of programs and initiatives.
• Some examples include: the Africa Health Systems Initiative (AHSI), to which Canada committed $450 million, helps train, retain, and deploy front-line health workers to improve basic health care services available to impoverished communities. Ultimately, through African-led efforts this initiative will help mothers and children in Africa by strengthening national health systems and helping to mobilise additional African health workers – to make sure they can reach the most vulnerable people. To date, this program works in nine countries: Mali, Mozambique, Sudan, Tanzania, the Congo, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia.
• Another example is the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), which improves food security and nutrition, and increase local earning capacity.
• Through regional agricultural research, the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) introduced new, more nutritious bean varieties to more than seven million African households, representing about 35 million people.
• Canada also supports education in Mozambique. With our support, the Government has been able to expand access to education, while steadily improving the quality as well. In 2010, the enrolment rate for elementary schools was 95 percent, and the Ministry trained 9,800 new teachers.
TAN: What are some of the best examples of progress being made in Africa?
• Examples of progress that has been made in Africa in recent years include: our work in Mozambique, where more than 69,000 pregnant women received treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV in 2010, compared to 8,244 in 2005. In addition, extension services, technical assistance, and training were provided to over 432,000 farmers in Mozambique, a 14 percent increase over the previous year.
• Canada helped more than 1.6 million people in Northern Ghana gain access to safe drinking water.
• Canada is a top investor among bilateral donors in Senegal in the education sector. Between 2008 and 2010, Canada’s support helped train more than 21,000 educators and increased the overall school enrolment rate to 92.5 percent (95 percent for girls).
• In Tanzania, more than eight million children are now enrolled in primary school, up from 4.4 million in 2000.
• Also in Tanzania, steady improvements are being made in child health with a reduction in the under-five mortality rate down from 112 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2004-05 to 81 in 2009-10. There has also been a reduction in infant mortality rates in 2004-05 it was 68 per 1,000 live births and that number is 51 per 1,000.
• In Mali, Canada contributed to a national model for textbooks purchasing, printing and distribution. So far, approximately 2 million textbooks have been distributed nation-wide.
TAN: What is Canada planning in terms of future development and growth with Africa given that more and more we find ourselves on the global front lines?
• Development in Africa is working. And it’s getting results.
• In Ethiopia, over the past few years, Canada’s funding helped to feed of over 7.8 million people and rehabilitated over 90,000 hectares of degraded land in order to create more sustainable farm land.
• Canada contributed to the referendum on South Sudan’s independence in January by helping the process become credible and impartial. Canada, through CIDA, co-chaired the Donor Coordination Group on the Referendum in Sudan and supported the deployment of 187 international observers, including 13 Canadians, to monitor and report on the referendum. CIDA also trained 31,136 police officers and 75 judges.
• Canada helps clear land mines from old war zones, provides the safe return of displaced populations, and helped clear nearly 150,000 m2 of land in South Sudan for agricultural development.
• The Government of Canada is committed to taking on these challenges with African, Canadian and international partners.
• Canada’s contributions to African development are achieving results. I mentioned earlier that more children are attending school.
• Access to health care is expanding. Women are gaining a new place and voice in society.
• Canada is the largest donor to Mozambique’s strategic health plan. This plan, increased the number of women giving birth in health centres to 64 percent up from 49 percent in 2005. The number of people receiving anti-retroviral treatment against HIV/AIDS increased to 218,991 up from 15,900 in 2005.
• In Democratic Republic of Congo, the “Community Health Services Rehabilitation Project” increased access to primary health care in the N’sele district, by rehabilitating or implementing services and basic health care structures. As of December 2009, 75 percent of Congolese had access to a functional health centre offering basic services like immunisations, pre and postnatal consultations, and trained professionals who can assist in the birth of local children.
• Canada is helping to lay the groundwork for the adequate delivery of health services in South Sudan. We supported the construction and rehabilitation of over 110 health facilities, including the rehabilitation of the Juba Teaching Hospital, which receives approximately 100,000 patients each year, as well as training for 1,900 health professionals.
• All of this work is making a real and lasting difference in the lives of millions of people. Canada will continue to pursue more effective, focused and accountable foreign aid to achieve these results.
TAN: As a senior government representative what has politics taught you and what advice would you like to pass onto our youth?
• Public service is a rewarding and demanding responsibility. We are very fortunate to live in Canada and we all should do our part to maintain our freedoms and quality of life.
• Whether it is helping in our local communities or around the world, we can contribute to those around us and help build a stronger country and improve our world.
• I encourage all of Canada’s young people to live a life in which you give your very best, respect others and your community and always seek out your next opportunities for a happy and prosperous life in which the skills, experiences and education that Canada provides them can be used in a positive and respectful way.
TAN: What is your hope for Canada on a domestic and international level?
• The global economy is still recovering and while Canada is doing better than most, we need to remain committed to the economy.
• As the world changes, I want Canada to continue to be a peaceful, pluralistic society in which all people are respected and given the same opportunities.
• I hope Canada will continue making its contribution to worldwide peace and security.
• I hope Canada will show the world that every nation can maximise its potential by ensuring that seniors are respect for their past contributions and our investment in the younger generation will keep our nation strong and secure.
• And I hope that Canada will continue being a welcoming nation that continues to do its part for other nations facing challenges.
The Honourable Beverley J. Oda was appointed the Minister of International Cooperation on August 14, 2007. The Member of Parliament for Durham (Ontario), she is responsible for Canada’s overseas development assistance through CIDA.
Ms. Oda was first elected to Parliament in 2004, and was re-elected in 2006. On February 6, 2006, she was appointed Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women. Previous to this, she served in Opposition as the Critic for Canadian Heritage and as a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
Prior to her election, Ms. Oda spent more than two decades in the fields of public and private broadcasting. In 1999, Ms. Oda was appointed senior Vice-President, Industry Affairs, at CTV. From 1987 to 1993, she served as a commissioner with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
Ms. Oda began her broadcasting career at TV Ontario in 1973. In 1976, she moved to the field of commercial broadcasting. She has also worked as a consultant in the areas of multiculturalism, diversity and broadcasting.
Ms. Oda was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, in 1944. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts. She served as chair of the Lakeridge Health Hospital Network and is a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal.