Super Role Model: Liya Kebede

By Mandana Mofidi

Oct 28, 2011 9:37pm

BY: CARRIE HALPERIN AND MANDANA MOFIDI

When super model Liya Kebede’s not gracing the runways or posing as the leading face for Esteé Lauder cosmetics, she’s making headlines as an advocate for women and children in her native Ethiopia.

As a mother, Kebede wanted to do something about the startling rate in which pregnant women were dying from preventable causes.

“I’m a mom, I’m from Ethiopia,” Kebede said. “I gave birth in the US and had all the proper care available to me. If I had given birth in Ethiopia – I don’t know if I might have even survived it.”

Today, 1 in 40 women in Ethiopia will die from preventable maternal-related causes.  A 2008 maternal mortality report produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) listed Ethiopia as the fifth country with the largest maternal mortality deaths.  From 1990 to 2008, Ethiopia accounted for 14,000 maternal-related deaths.   The ripple effects of this preventable lost are felt throughout entire communities.

To combat those statistics, Kebede created the Liya Kebede Foundation, which aims to bring lifesaving healthcare to Ethiopian women and children. She has also worked as a World Health Organization Good Will Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, which earned her a spot on TIME Magazine’s 2010 100 people who affect our world.

“The problem that we’re having in developing nations is that women don’t have access to these places… they live in places where there’s no roads, no hospitals, no clinic and so women are dying from simple things like high blood pressure or hemorrhage or infections – things that women don’t die from here,” Kebede said.

Kebede’s foundation is chipping away at the problem.  A newly opened maternity clinic in Awassa, Ethiopia, the foundation’s latest effort, bringing skilled doctors and midwives to the women of Awassa.  This is –  Kebede says, the beginning of many more efforts her foundation is undertaking to help save the next generation of mothers.

Take Action:  Check out The Liya Kebede Foundation and find out how you can get involved.

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