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Investing in lasting change requires a whole of society approach. By tackling maternal and child health issues from the community level to national and regional policy arenas, the Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa Initiative supported equitable lifesaving solutions including improving the quality and provision of health services and removing cultural and gender-related barriers to access healthcare.    

Changing the lives of women and children in sub-Saharan Africa  

Major progress has been made worldwide in reducing maternal and child morbidity and mortality. These improvements contribute toward achieving Targets 3.1 (Reduce maternal mortality) and 3.2 (End all preventable deaths under 5 years of age) of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-being). Nevertheless, this progress is not uniform around the world. Sub-Saharan Africa is among the regions that still registers a high number of maternal and child deaths, most of which are caused by preventable and treatable diseases.  

The Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa (IMCHA) initiative sought to support locally relevant interventions that foster better health outcomes. From 2014 to 2022, IMCHA made important strides toward improving the lives of women and children in 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Co-funded by Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC), IMCHA was an eight-year, CAD36-million initiative.  

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Practical solutions to tackle difficult challenges 

The following seven tiles highlight some of IMCHA’s success stories and lessons learned to improve policies and practices for better maternal and child health outcomes. 

At the Okpekpe Primary Health Center

Community-based interventions

To create demand for better access and quality healthcare and ensure sustainable change, it is important to involve various groups in the community as part of this effort.
Dr. Oluwafemi Ogunrayi taking the vital signs of Loveth Paul during the clinic antenatal visit at Okpekpe community Primary Health Center

Quality of care

Some IMCHA research teams worked with health facilities to ensure that women and children receive high-quality and respectful services.

Mom with baby photo by Alex Wynter

Evidence-informed policies and practices to improve maternal and child health

Health policies, systems or programs do not improve automatically just because sound evidence is available.
At the Okpekpe Primary Health Center

Improving women’s reproductive health

Improving education around and access to family planning can help reduce unwanted pregnancies and prevent unsafe or illegal abortions.
At the Okpekpe Primary Health Center

Better health for adolescents

Access to reproductive health information and services can help adolescents better understand how to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Maimouna Seck, president of Bajenu Gox during the ceremony of giving identification badges to women members of the association in the presence of the authorities of Kaolack

Strengthening community health workers for improved health outcomes

Strengthening Community Health Worker’s roles and capacity expands the reach of health information and services especially in underserved communities.
At the Okpekpe Primary Health Center

Engaging males for better maternal and child health

Male involvement is associated with improved maternal health outcomes resulting from increased care-seeking at health facilities for prenatal care, delivery and postnatal care, as well as improved home care practices.

Discover more Research in Action and Perspectives 


Central African Republic

South Africa

Country Profile

South Africa has enjoyed considerable growth since the end of apartheid in 1994, but the benefits are distributed unequally. Many citizens still lack clean water, proper health care, and economic opportunity. Our support has focused on finding solutions for these challenges, along with ways to capitalize on the country’s strong research capacity.  Our work in South Africa began through a program designed to prepare the country’s future leaders to govern in a multi-racial democracy. Early research focused on health, urban issues, and economic and industrial policy. Further research helped deliver more effective diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. 

Building a strong competition regime

We helped fund the government’s efforts to establish a strong competition regime to guarantee a fair marketplace. To bolster competition authorities in the region, we supported the African Competition Forum’s creation in 2010. Our research funding also helped increase competition and reduce taxes on information and communication technologies, extending their reach. Another key area of support allowed the public greater access to telecentres.

Protecting against climate change

Raising livestock is the backbone of the country’s agriculture system, but infectious diseases take a heavy toll. Researchers from the University of Alberta and the Agricultural Research Council in South Africa are developing an innovative livestock vaccine to protect goats, sheep, and cattle against five important viral infections with a single dose. 

South Africa’s agriculture sector faces considerable impact from climate change, as do its urban residents. In the Cape Flats, a low-lying coastal zone outside Cape Town, researchers identified better ways to address flooding. As a result of their work, the municipality collaborates more closely with communities and civil society organizations for solutions to flood risk, and carries out educational campaigns. 

Total IDRC Support

390 research activities worth CAD102.1 million since 1989

South Africa kids playing in a park.
DFID / L.Mgbor

Our support is helping to:

  • develop long-term responses to climate change in vulnerable, semi-arid areas
  • enable evidence-driven social and economic development
  • assess the effectiveness of health-promoting taxes
  • find better ways to control foot and mouth disease in livestock
  • assess the effectiveness of health-promoting taxes