Stories of Hope
In the ten minutes you spend reading and thinking about this letter, five women will lose their lives to complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Almost all of them — and almost all of the nearly 300,000 women who will succumb to preventable maternal death this year — will have lived, and died, in the villages and slums of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Each, dead from causes that are routinely prevented or treated in the world’s wealthy countries, will leave behind her a trail of grief — devastated parents, a bereft husband, motherless children, a community in mourning — and a deepening cycle of family poverty.
These stories are heartbreaking, but I am writing to tell you other stories with a quite different ending. During these same ten minutes, countless lives are being saved:
- A teenager, not yet fully grown, is learning how to avoid a pregnancy for which she isn’t ready, physically or emotionally.
- An expectant mother, at a routine prenatal visit, is being screened for pregnancy-induced high blood pressure which, undetected and untreated, could result in her death.
- A woman in labor is being rushed from her remote village, on a donkey cart kept ready for just such a crisis, to a clinic where a specially-trained midwife will perform a C-section and save two lives, mother and baby.
- Just after giving birth, a woman takes a small pill, given to her by a community health worker, that will stop her bleeding before it can develop into a life-threatening hemorrhage.
- A new mother is learning the importance of feeding her baby only breast milk during the first months of life, avoiding the dangers of malnutrition and diarrhea that kill millions of infants each year.
Each of these stories ends not with grief but with hope. A thousand women will survive today who, on this same date a quarter-century ago, when FCI began our work, would have died needless and tragic deaths. Each of these survivors will live to explore a world of opportunity, of expanding possibilities, of choices she will make for herself. They are the face of a revolution that is taking place right in front of our eyes.
Today, as always, Family Care International stands at the very center of these momentous changes. FCI’s highly-qualified local staff is on the ground in five countries in Africa and Latin America, we work in over a dozen more, and our impact extends across the developing world. Our goal is to make sure that every woman, everywhere, receives the essential, lifesaving care that she needs. We need your support for this urgently important work.
In the coming year, with your help, FCI will work to ensure that even women in the most remote communities have access to skilled maternity care. With your support, we will teach women’s groups that have little experience in defending their rights how to advocate effectively for themselves. In urban slums and rural villages, we will give young people the information they need to avoid unintended pregnancy and HIV. We will provide expert assistance to Ministries of Health, helping them develop policies and programs that expand the reach of essential health-care services.
And in capitals from Washington to Ouagadougou to Quito, FCI will make sure, thanks to your generosity, that women’s lives, women’s health, and women’s rights are given the priority they deserve and so desperately need. FCI is on the front lines, fighting to save lives, to educate and empower women, and to hold governments accountable for keeping their promises. We, and all of the women and families who feel FCI’s impact, depend on your support.
This is FCI’s 25th anniversary year. As we look back at the last quarter century, we are inspired by the great progress we have seen — and helped make happen — and motivated by the tremendous need and challenges we still face. At this critical time, your contribution will build on what we have achieved together. It will help us to build sensible, sustainable strategies to address age-old problems, whose solutions are now in our sight. It will ensure that FCI — at a time when organizations like ours face unprecedented financial pressures — will have the resources we need to continue and expand our unique and important work.
Most of all, your gift will empower teenagers who want only to make their own choices in life. It will bring more accessible, affordable obstetric care to women in deserts, mountains, jungles, and teeming cities. It will help drive national policies that are sensitive to women’s needs and rights, and evidence-based programs that save lives. Your contribution is an investment in the dreams and opportunities of women in a thousand villages; an investment in their future, and in all of ours.
When you make a donation to Family Care International, every dollar broadens and deepens our impact. We need your support; we cannot do our work without you. Please give as generously as you can.
Ann M. Starrs
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