Naomi Campbell: Millions of women are dying needlessly

Bob Geldof guest-edited Sunday’s edition of the Italian publication La Stampa. In the coming days we’ll be posting English language versions of the featured articles, including this one from Naomi Campbell:

It has been another extraordinary year for me not to mention my many trips to Italy for both work and pleasure. Bella Italia! I am honoured to share with you a project, which I have recently been dedicated to, and something I am deeply passionate about.

A year ago I visited Downing Street in London to meet with Sarah Brown, the prime minister’s wife. At the meeting Sarah spoke at length about The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (WRA), which she is a patron of, and their grassroots network which campaigns to stop women dying in childbirth around the world. That was the start of my work with the WRA right then and there. As Sarah spoke eloquently about her work with the charity, I was shocked at the extent of the problem, a problem I was completely unaware of at that point.

Millions of women are dying needlessly around the world. In the developing world a woman dies every minute giving birth, and almost always her baby will die too. In these places, women are often the breadwinners and leaders in the family. So, when a mother dies it affects not only her children but also her entire family, their livelihood and future.

There are solutions to this problem and they are immediately attainable. However, we must act quickly in support of this cause. By acting, we will help save half a million young women’s lives a year. It’s important for our global future; healthy families are vital to peace, stability and prosperity everywhere.

Last September I hosted with Sarah a catwalk show in aid of the WRA at London Fashion Week to raise funds and awareness of the cause. It was a great success thanks to an entire team of people including the WRA team, the celebrities who came out in support, the designers who donated, the production teams and many more. But what I really took away from last year’s event was knowing that thousands of people in the UK became aware of the work of the WRA and this critical cause.

My work continues and each day I am learning more and more. You may not know this either – because it has been a hidden scandal, of all the Millennium Development Goals agreed by the international community, reducing maternal mortality lags furthest behind. There has been no progress for 20 years. And yet I, like so many others, didn’t even know these problems existed before becoming actively involved myself.

How sad, and how unnecessary, that half a million women die every year from causes (like bleeding and high blood pressure) which we can help prevent. And for every single death, about another thirty women suffer terrible injuries, which leave them in pain and often rejected by their husbands. Providing trained health workers is critical. Professionals who know how to save women’s lives when things go wrong – when the baby gets stuck, or the mother bleeds too much or develops dangerously high blood pressure. We have the knowledge and the medicines to do this – but we have not yet committed the resources to those countries most in need.

When mothers survive they make sure their girl children go to school – so breaking the vicious cycle of early marriage, which leads to so many early maternal deaths. When mothers survive they give love and care, they put food on the table, fetch clean water, get the children vaccinated, tend the fields. If we treat a mother for HIV to prevent it being passed on to her children, she can look after her family, rather than the other way around. If we help a mother survive, she can help prevent her children being hit by malaria.

This week the G8 has an historic opportunity to end an old scandal and start a new chapter. I really hope that they do the right thing and deliver the resources and leadership to save millions of lives. This must be a priority for governments all over the world.


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