SEATTLE — Supermodel Christy Turlington Burns is taking charge in the fight against maternal mortality with Every Mother Counts, a nonprofit she founded to advance initiatives and raise funds for maternal health programs worldwide.
Every Mother Counts provides education and encourages participation in the maternal health fight. It became a 501(c)(3) foundation in 2012 and has since raised more than $13 million and impacted more than 450,000 lives.
The organization has provided grants for maternal health initiatives in Tanzania, Haiti, India, Uganda, Bangladesh, Syria, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nepal and Guatemala. Specific actions include providing health centers with solar-powered electricity and other supplies, training health workers and ensuring pregnant women have transportation to clinics throughout the course of their pregnancies.
According to Every Mother Counts, 303,000 women die every year because of complications in pregnancy or childbirth, which means maternal mortality claims the life of one woman every two minutes. Every Mother Counts reports that 99 percent of maternal death occurs in developing countries, but up to 98 percent of these maternal mortality deaths are preventable.
Turlington Burns gained an interest in global maternal health issues after she herself suffered a postpartum hemorrhage shortly after giving birth. The Every Mother Counts campaign began with Turlington Burns’ 2010 documentary ‘No Woman, No Cry’, which discusses global maternal health issues through a lens on the lives of women in Tanzania, Florida, Guatemala and Bangladesh.
Turlington Burns told the Wall Street Journal it was helpful to profile the stories of individuals affected by maternal health issues. “The statistics themselves are pretty shocking,” she said. “But when people see faces and hear people talking in their own language about what it’s like, it gets people thinking about the issues in a more personal way.”
Every Mother Counts provides opportunities for people in the U.S. to take part in the fight for safer pregnancy and childbirth, maintaining a list of organizations accepting volunteers, students, doctors and others to take part in initiatives in the U.S. and abroad.
In addition, Every Mother Counts works with an organization called Hope Phones, which recycles old cell phones and uses the funds to acquire mobile technology locally in areas with high maternal death rates. This allows healthcare workers to contact patients, collect and distribute data and request emergency medical assistance.
Every Mother Counts is doing vital advocacy work on behalf of women all over the developing world, and thanks to support from Turlington Burns, the issues of maternal health and mortality are given more credence in the public eye and in poverty-reduction goals.
– Kate Miller