SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota — Model Christy Turlington Burns is taking charge in the fight against global maternal mortality with the nonprofit organization Every Mother Counts (EMC). Burns started EMC to advance initiatives and raise funds for maternal health programs worldwide.
EMC educates, engages and mobilizes expanding audiences to participate in the maternal health fight. It became a 501(c)(3) foundation in 2012 and fundraised a mind-blowing $13 million. It has also completed 200,000 actions and impacted the lives of over 400,000 mothers.
The organization has provided grants for maternal health initiatives in countries throughout the world, including 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 the organization, 303,000 women die every year because of pregnancy or childbirth complications, which means maternal mortality claims the life of one woman every two minutes. EMC reports that 99 percent of maternal death occurs in developing countries.
However, the nonprofit emphasizes that 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 EMC campaign began with Turlington Burn’s 2010 documentary No Woman, No Cry, which discusses global maternal health issues through a focus on the lives of women in Tanzania, Florida, Guatemala and Bangladesh.
Turlington Burns told the Wall Street Journal Magazine that it was helpful to profile the stories of individuals affected by maternal health issues.
“The statistics themselves are pretty shocking,” she said in the interview. “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.”
EMC provides several opportunities for people in the U.S. to take part in the fight for safer motherhood worldwide. The nonprofit created an expanding list of organizations accepting volunteers, students, medical professionals and others to take part in initiatives in the U.S. and abroad.
In addition to hosting walk, run and cycling events, EMC also works with an organization called Hope Phones, which recycles old cell phones and uses the funds to acquire mobile technology on the local market in areas around the world with high maternal death rates. This mobile technology allows healthcare workers to contact patients, collect and distribute health data and call for transportation when immediate medical assistance is needed.
The organization’s online store offers products from several retail partners with all or a portion of sales going to the charity. For instance, an infant supply store called The Baby Box Co. partnered with the nonprofit by offering the Every Mother Counts Baby Box, which includes a variety of baby products and sells for $225. Fifteen percent of sales from the box go directly to EMC. The nonprofit also partnered with Minted, an online store for the works of independent artists and designers that donates two percent of all art sales.
“We are quite focused on the potential to make childbirth safe for ALL moms and to achieve that, we have a ways to go,” Turlington Burns said in an interview. “I strongly believe that each preventable death is one death too many.”
– Kate Miller