Ugandan midwife uses fetoscope during a prenatal checkup.

Maternal and Child Health

We fund research that gives mothers and children better futures through access to quality health care. 

The Maternal and Child Health program aims to save and improve the lives of women, adolescents, and children by developing solutions that promote the quality and accountability of health services for the most vulnerable.

Maternal, newborn, and child health is Canada’s top development priority. Despite progress in the past two decades, nearly 800 women die every day due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and 16,000 children under the age of five die from preventable causes. Most of these deaths occur in low-and middle-income countries, and many in fragile contexts. Moreover, the largest cohort of youth in history is entering their reproductive age. These adolescents often lack the necessary information and opportunities to exercise their rights and to access the services they require to protect themselves from harmful situations and their consequences.

The Maternal and Child Health program is committed to developing solutions through implementation research that promotes the systematic uptake of evidence-based research into routine practice and policies and ultimately improves the quality, accessibility, and effectiveness of health services and care. Reaching these vulnerable populations requires strengthening primary healthcare systems and improving how health information is collected, analyzed, and used, to ensure resources go where they are needed most.

The Maternal and Child Health program is pleased to fund a cohort of research projects and related activities addressing the following two thematic areas, with a focus on West Africa and the Middle East and North Africa regions:

  • Health information systems
  • Adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights

Health information systems

Improving the health of women, children, and adolescents around the world should be based on decisions made using reliable health information systems (HIS). However, in most low- and middle-income countries, HIS are challenged by poor coverage, incomplete records, inferior data quality, untimely reporting, limited analysis and use, and fragmented systems that impede access to quality health services. Moreover, HIS often fail to capture marginalized groups, which are subsequently underrepresented for planning and resource allocation purposes. Challenges to providing equitable and accessible health services are further exacerbated in fragile settings. Projects funded by this program will focus on strengthening the culture of collecting, analyzing, and using reliable health information to improve the responsiveness of health systems for greater accountability.

Adolescent sexual and reproductive health

In many countries, adolescent girls face high risks of early marriage, sexual and gender based violence and transactional sex, HIV transmission, pregnancy, and birth-related risks. Gender inequalities and lack of access to quality and comprehensive education and health services compound these risks. Although global, regional, and national plans are starting to pay more attention to adolescent health issues, accompanying implementation strategies tend to be limited in scope and funding. Projects funded by this program will focus on improving the state of knowledge about the barriers and drivers for adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights, with clear pathways to address their sexual and reproductive health and rights needs for long-lasting impact.

IDRC is part of the ESSENCE on Health Research initiative, which brings together funders to improve coordination and pilot innovative approaches to health research evaluation, impact, and use of evidence.


Announcements and details on eligibility and thematic focus for funding opportunities will be posted on IDRC’s funding page.


Global Affairs Canada, Global Financing Facility
Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Global Affairs Canada

Explore research projects that we support.


Publications and resources

Through books, articles, research publications, and studies, we aim to widen the impact of our investment and advance development research.


Financing critical surgeries in Pakistan