Risks of mortality for women and their babies are highest at the time of birth. In 2006, nearly 61 percent of births in the developing world were attended by skilled workers — up from less than half in 1990.
While progress is slow, there is a direct correlation between the presence of skilled health workers at the time of delivery and maternal health and wellbeing.
Several countries, including low-income countries, have significantly reduced maternal mortality, according to the WRA.
“Women are speaking out,” says Shaver. “One of the greatest examples we have is in India where the women are speaking out about services that are supposed to be provided for them. They are meeting in groups of hundreds and in some cases, thousands. The Alliance is able to bring forward the government officials and the health officials and they are talking about the concerns and the issues being faced. Even more importantly, there is action being taken.”
There is much to be done in the fight against maternal mortality, but the WRA draws inspiration and strength from the successes of its advocacy.
- In Burkina Faso, WRA convinced political leaders to increase the national budget for maternal health.
- In India, WRA secured changes in national policy and led implementation of programs to enable nurse-midwives to perform life-saving procedures.
- In Indonesia, WRA pioneered and established Alert Villages nationwide to help communities recognize danger signs in pregnancy and act quickly to utilize improved systems of transport and communications.
- In Nepal, WRA mobilized the political will and provided the expertise for the country’s first Safe Motherhood Master Plan with allocation of resources through the national budget.
- In Tanzania, WRA conducted community clinic audits documenting gaps in availability of skilled health workers and is working with government to increase the numbers of midwives, nurses and doctors needed in rural health districts.
- In Yemen, WRA led the coalition of faith-based and civic society leaders that convinced legislators to introduce and is now working to pass a bill to raise the age of marriage for girls.
“We are seeing — by having advocacy and by having a political and social globalization events happen — it is changing the tide,” says Shaver. “By having numbers in mass rather than just isolated individuals, there is power behind the people and a change is beginning to take place.”
WRA’s Newest Global Ambassador: Naomi Campbell
British supermodel Naomi Campbell founded Fashion for Relief (FFR) in 2005 for the aid of Hurricane Katrina victims. Since then, Campbell has mobilized the fashion industry to raise awareness and money for critical causes. After meeting WRA patron Sarah Brown — wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown — and becoming aware of the statistics around maternal mortality, Campbell decided to host Fashion for Relief 2008 in aid of the White Ribbon Alliance.
Campbell’s extraordinary contributions through public efforts, fundraising and awareness has gone toward ensuring mothers and newborn babies survive childbirth and give birth to healthier families, communities and nations, according to WRA. Recognizing these efforts, Brown and Shaver appointed Campbell global ambassador to the White Ribbon Alliance during the African First Ladies Summit in Los Angeles at the end of April, 2009.
“Through late nights and hard work, I learned much more about the important work of The White Ribbon Alliance,” says Campbell. “The White Ribbon Alliance spans (118 countries) with an extensive network of on the ground partners. This enables them to reach women and children, directly making an impact. It is with great pride that I accept my role as global ambassador.”
Over the past year, the charity catwalk shows have helped attract new supporters in the fight to diminish maternal mortality all over the world. Among the star supporters are Emma Thompson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judi Dench, and supermodels Liya Kebede, Elle MacPherson, Helena Christensen and Christy Turlington.
Photo 1: — White Ribbon Alliance Day Tanzania Marchers
Photo 2: — Supermodel, Naomie Campbell, Global Ambassador for WRA.