Canada must invest in world’s children in Budget 2024

By: Results Canada Published: 14/02/2024

Their faces, names, and geographies may differ, but children around the world share common aspirations – to be embraced by family, to live in clean and safe environments, to be free from hunger, and to feel the hope that comes from education and opportunity. Instead, for millions of children caught in the crosshairs of conflict or living in extreme poverty, those basic needs are unmet. With the 2024 Federal Budget on the horizon, Canada has an opportunity to expand on a rich legacy of leadership and build on commitments to champion the rights, well-being, and dignity of children worldwide.

The reality is stark: today, more than half the people living in extreme poverty are children, even though they represent only 31% of the global population. Around 333 million children live on less than $2.15 a day. In countries experiencing conflicts and fragile situations, the under-5 mortality rate is three times higher than other countries.  

Progress is possible. Over the past 50 years, there have been dramatic improvements in children’s survival and education. Deaths of children under five have decreased by more than half, thanks in large part to vaccines. Polio is close to being relegated to history – making it only the first time since smallpox that we will eradicate a disease. Just recently, the Globe and Mail reported that Cameroon became the first country to provide routine malaria vaccines, setting Africa on the path to curb a relentless killer of children under five. In addition, more children than ever before are accessing education – with 90% attending primary school – helping create more prosperous futures and communities. These are triumphant demonstrations of what science, community, political commitment, and international cooperation can do.

But this progress is being reversed or at risk of reversal due to conflict, pandemics, and climate change. Children bear the brunt of extreme poverty, facing malnutrition, susceptibility to vaccine-preventable diseases, and "learning poverty" (inability to read and understand a simple text by age 10). This vicious cycle will perpetuate until decisive action is taken.

Canada, with its legacy of global leadership, is uniquely positioned to interrupt this cycle in its March budget. By bolstering international aid and including smart investments in education, immunization, and nutrition, Canada can help make sure we reach every child with the support they need to survive and thrive. Budget 2024 must address the growing needs of children worldwide. It must be #AChildrensBudget.

Canada's historical contributions to global initiatives showcases our dedication to supporting children globally. The 2010 Muskoka Initiative secured significant funding for maternal and child health, saving at least 1.2 million children's lives, and our leadership on the 2018 Charlevoix Declaration improved access to education for girls in crisis zones. We have supported Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to help protect the world's children from diseases that used to kill them and were one of the first countries to support the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which has helped immunize 2.5 billion children. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.

While our government committed to increasing international aid annually, the 2023 budget fell short. Compared to 2022, the overall international assistance funding was cut by over $1.3 billion – a 15% cut. However, a renewed commitment in 2024 with $600 million in additional funding can ensure transformative investments reach every child.

Early investments in children accumulate throughout a child’s lifetime, benefiting children and society. In fact, these investments are among the most cost-effective governments can make. For each $1 for child health, lower-middle income countries gain $20 in benefits.

Not only that, it is the right and smart thing to do. Global issues, such as climate change, infectious diseases, and economic instability, are interconnected and have an impact on Canada and our prosperity, health, and safety. Ensuring everyone, everywhere has the opportunity to thrive prevents disease outbreaks, builds sustainable markets and communities, and helps defuse crises like armed conflicts before they begin.

With Budget 2024, we have the opportunity and responsibility to be a beacon of hope for the most vulnerable among us—our children. We can do more than just envision a better future, we can actively work towards it, breaking the cycle of child poverty and securing a brighter future for generations to come.

Chris Dendys, Executive Director of Results Canada

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