Mr. Speaker, Canadians have made enormous sacrifices and Canada will honour their remarkable contribution by building on our accomplishments in Afghanistan.
We will be doing what so many of them came to believe was our best reason for being there: making life better for ordinary people, especially women and children. Their valour, their sacrifice and their remarkable achievements will inspire and guide us as we open this chapter of Canada's engagement and begin to transition out of Afghanistan.
I would like to take this opportunity to give more information on Canada's development and humanitarian assistance role in Afghanistan for the period of 2011 to 2014.
I would also like to take a few minutes to remind the House of why Canada's participation in this international effort is so important.
As announced by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, and National Defence on November 16, Canada is building on its strengths and accomplishments over the past years and is committed to helping build a more secure, stable and self-reliant Afghanistan. Canada will continue to play an important role in promoting a better future for all Afghans.
What does this mean in terms of our engagement, development and humanitarian assistance? Many of our 2011 benchmarks have been achieved and some of them have been surpassed.
Canada has also achieved great progress on our three signature projects of building 50 schools in key districts of Kandahar, rehabilitating the Dahla Dam and its irrigation system, and eradicating polio.
Building on these successes, as well as on the needs of the people of Afghanistan, Canada is committing approximately $300 million from 2011 to 2014 for development and humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.
Within this overall engagement, CIDA will focus on: health, especially of mothers, newborns and children; education; humanitarian assistance; and advancing human rights. On maternal, newborn and child health, it should be noted that Canada will target women in all of its development work in Afghanistan.
For example, as part of the G8 Muskoka initiative, support will be provided to enable the Government of Afghanistan to provide improved nutrition, immunization and the training of health professionals. These investments will help to improve the health of women in one of the world's poorest regions and reduce the number of maternal, newborn and under-five child deaths in Afghanistan.
On education, children and youth are Afghanistan's greatest resource. Canada will continue to invest in their future, building on our significant investment in Afghanistan's education and health systems. To get real change in Afghanistan, we have to nurture a whole generation with new ideas. The kids are the key.
Canada will also continue to play a leadership role in supporting the Afghan national education strategy. This means that Canada will help the Government of Afghanistan improve access to primary and secondary schooling so that more children can go to school, especially girls and young women.
This will also serve to increase the quality of primary education through teacher training and will help foster a safe and secure learning environment. Canada will work closely with the Afghan ministry of education to build its capacity to manage the national education system effectively and accountably.
On health, building on the successes from the past years, Canada will continue to be a leading donor to polio eradication in Afghanistan through its investments in the global polio eradication initiative.
Today, 66% of the Afghan population has access to primary health care services within two hours' walking distance of their homes. That is up from 9% in the year 2000.
Canada delivered nearly 28 million polio vaccinations to seven million kids. Infant mortality has been reduced since the year 2000 through projects such as Canada's maternal and child health program, which is improving the availability and the quality of emergency obstetric care in 37 health facilities and four provincial hospitals in southern Afghanistan.
Our renewed engagement builds on Canada's experience and investments in Afghanistan. As mentioned earlier, in order to address the dreadful health and nutritional status of Afghan women, which was among the worst in the world, Canada will also support effective and accountable assistance to enable the Government of Afghanistan to improve maternal and child health.
On humanitarian assistance, we should not forget that more than seven million Afghans are still affected by food insecurity, conflict and natural disasters. This situation is a significant obstacle to reducing poverty. As part of its countrywide strategy, Canada will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people in Afghanistan. This will aim to increase the food security of vulnerable populations such as refugees, internally displaced persons, refugees who have returned to the country and other civilians affected by conflict.
We will also assist in the provision of non-food items such as emergency clean water and sanitation facilities, basic health services, temporary shelter and essential items such as clothing, bedding and other basic household needs to vulnerable populations.
Since Afghanistan remains one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, Canada will continue to support Afghanistan's national mine action effort in order to eradicate land mines and provide mine-risk education and training to local populations. This will allow Afghans to live in a safer environment and to use this cleared land for livestock and harvest.
In conclusion, while much has been accomplished, much remains to be done. Canada will be at the forefront of international efforts to support Afghans in building a country that is better governed, more stable, secure and prosperous. Afghanistan, like Canada, is a country of great plurality and diversity. We must continue to support its people in overcoming the challenges that nature and history have put before them.
I make one last comment. One of my partners as a police officer was Raymond Arnal. Raymond Arnal is the father of a soldier we lost. His son was Corporal James Arnal, who was 25 years of age. He lost his life making a severe sacrifice, but he believed in what he was doing in Afghanistan. I stand here today to honour Corporal James Arnal and to remember that he would never want us to turn our backs on what he was trying to accomplish in Afghanistan. I push the members of this House to support Corporal James Arnal's wishes, to help Afghanistan to become a more secure and prosperous country.