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African Born Supermodel Pledges To Help Cut Maternal Deaths In Malawi

posted 6 Nov 2013, 08:12 by Mpelembe   [ updated 6 Nov 2013, 08:12 ]

Mozambican born Canadian supermodel Tasha de Vasconcelo visits Malawi, where her foundation, Amor is building a new maternity hospital in the community of DomasiMalawi, which had one of the highest maternal deaths in sub Saharan Africa, has managed to reduce maternal deaths from 984 per 100,000 live birth to 807 deaths for every 100,000 in the last four years.

 DOMASIMALAWI (RECENT) (HOT UNDER THE COLLAR) -  Supermodel and actress, Tasha de Vasconcelos, is seeking to help mothers and children in Malawi, by building a maternal hospital in the Southern African country to improve healthcare services there.

The 'Johnny English' star, who was born in neighbouring Mozambique, recently visited Malawi, where she set up a foundation called Amor in 2006, and pledged her continued support for safe motherhood initiatives in Malawi.

Over the last four years, Malawi has made progress in reducing the country's maternal mortality - death during or soon after pregnancy, which was once amongst the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to figures from the Ministry of Health released in April this year, the rate of maternal deaths has been reduced from 675 per 100,000 live births to 460 per 100,000.

Although the country has made some strides in reducing maternity deaths, de Vasconcelos says the rate of maternal deaths is still high, and hopes her foundation will contribute towards bringing the numbers down.

"The maternal mortality rate is alarming. The amount of deaths from childbirth is not a joy now inAfrica which breaks my heart. We need to focus on the mothers. We need to focus on the children. Because that's the future of Africa. We're saving lives. We've only just scratched the surface and even if I'm not here Amor will continue the work that we've begun," she said

The government and U.N. agencies say that initiatives working with communities have helped reduce maternal deaths, but a lack of infrastructure, especially in remote areas in the country remains a challenge in curbing the issue.

"If you go into the antenatal ward there are only about four beds in there. But there are about fifteen women sleeping in there and they sleep on the floor. In the postnatal ward like today there are eight mothers who have delivered and one is already on the floor," said midwife co-ordinator,Dorothy Ngoma.

De Vasconcelos also donated a 20-ton shipment of equipment and medical supplies.

The model criticised celebrities such as Madonna who adopt children from Africa as a means of helping them, instead of looking for ways to uplift the communities these children live in.

"I'm ashamed and shocked at what Madonna and many celebrities have done in that way, And I'm very strongly opposed to that," she said. "You don't shop in a supermarket and take children away. You help Africa in Africa and you leave the children to live the beauty of this country," she added.

While touring one of the local hospitals with Malawi's president Joyce Banda, De Vasconcelos hailed efforts shown by the president to ensure the process of giving birth is safe for both mother and child.

One of the first initiatives Banda started when she took office as president in 2012, was to establish the Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood program, aimed at significantly reducing maternal mortality by 2015.

"I believe that it's not fair. It's not fair that in the western world the moment a woman becomes pregnant is a period of joy from day one. They begin to prepare for the arrival of a baby. I mean it's a time of excitement. Here in the part of the world where I was born, when a woman becomes pregnant is a time of anxiety. Where they don't know if that woman is going to live," said Mrs Banda.

During her stay, De Vasconcelos also participated in the filming of documentaries to help raise awareness about maternal mortality in Malawi.