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PBS Turns a Much-Needed Spotlight on Maternal Health Risks in the Wake of the Haiti Earthquake

It isn’t surprising that a team from the PBS newsmagazine NOW turned to Ann Starrs, president and cofounder of Family Care International, when it wanted to better understand why women in Haiti have the highest rate of death in childbirth in the Western Hemisphere and what some 63,000 pregnant Haitian women now face in the aftermath of the earthquake. For more than two decades, Aid-for-Africa-member Family Care International has been working in Africa and Latin America to make pregnancy and childbirth safer for women and girls.  There are not many nonprofit organizations around the world that place maternal health at the center of their mission.  Family Care International was one of the first and remains one of the few.

Having a child in Sub Saharan Africa is risky business.  According to UNICEF, 1 in 16 women in the region die during pregnancy or in childbirth. In Haiti, before the earthquake, the rate was 1 in 44 women. In the United States it is 1 in 4,800 women. Family Care International works on the ground with local groups to focus attention on maternal deaths, forge consensus around proven strategies, accelerate action, and save women’s lives. It is encouraging that the PBS Emmy-winning show has chosen to focus on this issue in the context of Haiti’s crisis. We hope that spotlight draws broader attention to this crisis in African countries such as Kenya, Mali and Burkina Faso, as well.