Celebrities urge G8 leaders to reach Millennium Goals to save women and newborns

“A decade ago, the world set a target of reducing maternal mortality by 75% by 2015. Yet despite recent encouraging signs of progress in some areas little has changed.”
Published: 16 June 2010

It is a global scandal that millions of women and newborn babies die or suffer severe injury during childbirth every year – despite the fact that the vast majority of these injuries and deaths are preventable.

As Canada prepares to host the G8 Summit later this month, stars such as Celine Dion, Annie Lennox, Dame Judi Dench, Scarlett Johansson and Rio Ferdinand have joined forces with NGOs from their countries in calling for leaders to take real action in tackling this human rights crisis by way of an open letter to the G8 Leaders.

The letter calls on G8 leaders to commit to:

  1. Double international aid for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. And use this additional funding to:
  2. Recruit, train and deploy additional skilled health workers to fill the shortfall of 2.5 million health professionals and 1 million community health workers.
  3. Remove barriers of access to health care, with services for women and children being free at the point of use where countries choose to provide it.

Signatories include: Ai Tominaga, Angelique Kidjo, Annie Lennox, Claudia Winkleman, Celine Dion, Davina McCall, Diana Quick, Jarvis Church, Jermain Jenas, Dame Judi Dench, Joanna Lumley, Jully Black, June Sarpong, Kirstie Allsopp, Kristin Davis, Liya Kebede, Livia Firth, Margaret MacMillan, Mariella Frostrop, Mena Suvari, Minnie Driver, Maureen McTeer, Naomi Campbell, Rio Ferdinand, Scarlett Johansson, Wendi Murdoch, Amnesty International, AMREF, HIFA Challenge, Interact Worldwide, One, Oxfam International, Merlin, Mums Net, Royal Collage of Midwives, Save the Children, WaterAid, White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and Women for Women International.

A decade ago, the world set a target of reducing maternal mortality by 75% by 2015. Yet despite recent encouraging signs of progress in some areas little has changed for millions of women in much of Africa and Asia. That is shocking and shameful. But it doesn't have to continue like this.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper host of the G8 conference in Toronto later this month, has made saving the lives of the half-million women who die each year in pregnancy and childbirth his core theme.

In the UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced on 3 June that he has agreed to do all he can to make tackling the scandal of women dying in childbirth a top priority for the G8 Summit – and at the UN development summit later in the year.

The G8 has promised to put forward an initiative to save the lives of mothers and children.

As Cameron notes it should be an “ambitious target” and must be backed with real action. As Cameron said in his announcement, women hold the key to development and urgent progress is needed if we are to meet the Millennium Development Goals on maternal and child health by 2015.

The White Ribbon Alliance and its coalition members worldwide welcomes this focus on maternal health and is calling for real action to improve the health of mothers and children at the G8 summit.

We know what is needed – we must fill the global gap of 3.5 million health workers, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, support developing countries in making health care free at the point of use and expand coverage of proven low cost interventions such as immunisation and breast feeding.

It is essential the G8 goverments play their part by putting forward new resources to double G8 aid for maternal, newborn and child health and fund the vital interventions needed.

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Notes to Editors

Materials Available:

WRA G8 Package – being handed to G8 leaders before they go to the summit:

  • G8 Maternal Health Celebrity Open Letter to Leaders
  • Joint Health Worker Associations Letter
  • Health workers as Super Heroes Case Studies & Visuals
  • The Atlas of Birth - a compendium of the latest available data with maps, images and stories
  • Handover Photocall – To be announced

Spokespeople available include:

  • Maureen McTeer in Canada,
  • Brigid McConville UK Director of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood,
  • Jo Cox Director of the Maternal Mortality Campaign
  • and representatives from coalition members around the world

The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (WRA) is a leading global organization dedicated solely to save the lives of women and newborns that die for lack of basic healthcare taken for granted by all but the world's poorest and most vulnerable women. With individual and organizational members in 148 countries and affiliated National Alliances in 15 - Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia - WRA is a global grassroots movement uniting people from all walks of life to advocate for changes and investments to ensure every woman's access to quality health care before, during and after childbirth.