It's hard to believe that in the 21st century pregnancy and childbirth are the number one cause of death of young women around the world. That means that giving life is killing women at a rate of one a minute - that's almost half a million every year.
It's a scandal that almost all of these deaths are preventable, as I found out from Sarah Brown, Global Patron of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, when I visited her in Downing Street last year.
So think what lies in store for the 7,000 women in Haiti who are pregnant and due to give birth each month. What health system there was in Haiti has totally collapsed, along with the hospital buildings and clinics. These women face having their babies in dangerous and unsanitary conditions, without any of the medical care that can save women's and babies' lives when things go wrong.
What will happen to those women who go into labor but can't give birth without skilled help - perhaps because they are too young? Or who have high blood pressure (eclampsia can be fatal for mother and baby), or who develop an infection, or who hemorrhage? It will be almost impossible for them to get the Caesarian section, or drugs or blood transfusion that could save their lives.
And if these mothers die (and their babies are most likely to die with them), who will look after the children they already have, and who are already so vulnerable in the wake of the terrible earthquake? It is mothers, in countries all around the world, who make sure their children get fed and vaccinated, who nurture and care for them and make sure they go to school. We need to look after the women of Haiti for their own sakes - it is their right to receive good health care - but in doing so we will also be caring for the next generation.
As Global Ambassador for the White Ribbon Alliance, a coalition with members in 146 countries, I have seen the improvements that advocating for better health care for women and their newborns can bring. Last November, I visited Tanzania where, thanks to the White Ribbon Alliance's efforts, the number of midwives has doubled every year for the past three years. These changes - going on all round the world - are enormously helping to save lives.
As fashion week begins, I am launching this year's Fashion for Relief charity shows in New York on February 12th and London on the 18th for the women of Haiti. The White Ribbon Alliance - a global coalition for safe motherhood - is now supporting its partner organisations on the ground including CARE, which is looking after the urgent health needs of mothers and babies during this tragedy and into the future.
The support we are getting for Fashion for Relief is incredible; so many people are getting involved! Some of the biggest names in fashion, music, Hollywood, TV and society are giving up their time to support this effort, as well as many designers who are making donations for the catwalk which will be sold on the Net-A-Porter website from March 15th. Both shows will be amazing and everyone will have a chance to see the New York show live on AOL.com at 7:00pm EST.
Giving life should not be a death sentence for women. I look forward to visiting Haiti to witness how the funds we raise are helping to make a difference. Mothers and their children are Haiti's future; we must not let them down.
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