It's the deeply moving story of a young woman, poor and travelling by donkey, heavily pregnant and urgently looking for a safe place to give birth.
All she can find is a stable. Fortunately a beautiful, healthy child is born -- a birth that people have celebrated for the past 2,000 years.
That story -- in very human and ordinary versions -- is still playing out today across much of the developing world. Half of all women in Africa still give birth on the floor of a hut, alone or with only a neighbour or relative to help. And every year, when things go wrong and medical help is not available, many of these girls and women, and their babies, die needlessly.
Worldwide, pregnancy and childbirth remain the biggest killer of women of reproductive age. What's even more scandalous and heartbreaking is that almost all of these deaths can be prevented -- by making sure women have access to the health workers who could save them and their babies. And aside from the appalling human toll -- which is impossible to quantify -- it's estimated that maternal deaths cost the world $15 billion each year.
But there is good news. Death rates have come down by a third in recent years. This decline in maternal mortality certainly represents progress, but we still have a long way to go. At this time of year, when many of you generously give to good causes, I hope you will consider a donation that will make pregnancy and childbirth safer for women and newborns around the world in 2012. The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, of which I am Global Patron, is a global network of organizations in 155 countries around the world. Our members work with -- and put pressure on -- national governments to make sure that health workers are trained, employed and supported, so that needless maternal and newborn deaths are prevented.
By giving to the Alliance, you can make a difference in the lives of thousands of women and newborns.
Visit www.whiteribbonalliance.org/index.cfm/donate/ to learn more about how you can help.
For when we save a mother, we save not only a (usually young, often healthy) person who is loved by her family and friends. We also save the person who looks after the old and the young of her own community, who makes sure the children are fed, vaccinated, educated, who works hard to put food on the table, and who contributes to the vibrancy and economy of her country.
Happy holidays, and thank you for your support.
Please support the work of the White Ribbon Alliance by clicking HERE.