Mosebo Village

Helping Mothers around the world

This post was first published on Motherly, a new digital community to help modern women thrive that was launched today. 

Mother’s Day is always a special time of year as it is a time for mothers to be celebrated, appreciated and loved for the endless work we do to raise, nurture and love our children. Being a mom is one of the most wonderful gifts I’ve ever received and as a world traveler and writer on global health issues, I’ve realized how lucky we are as mothers to have the things we need to raise healthy children.

It wasn’t until I began traveling in the developing world that I got a sense of the enormous inequities for billions of mothers and their children who don’t have access to health care, clean water and sanitation, food and immunizations to protect themselves and their families. As an American, middle class mom of two, I took all these things we had for granted until I visited India, Ethiopia, Haiti and parts of Central America where I witnessed the struggles and tragedies that many mothers around the world face. So many moms lost their lives in childbirth delivering at home with no help or lost their babies due to preventable causes. It is heartbreaking and incomprehensible.

Mosebo Village

In Ethiopia at Mosebo Village. June 2014

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Project Mercy’s Community Development Model is Improving Lives in Rural Ethiopia

“In order to fight against poverty, you have to attack it from many different directions and then pluck it out, ” said Marta, co-founder of Project Mercy, as she described their Community Development Model. “We cannot educate children if the only outcome is to make them discontented with the limited job opportunities currently available.”

Project Mercy Yetebon Ethiopia

A beautiful flower within the gardens at Project Mercy

Back in June, when I was in Ethiopia as a fellow with the International Reporting Project I spent my last full day there visiting Project Mercy. Project Mercy is a special not-for-profit organization as it was created in 1993 by two Ethiopian exiles, husband and wife team Demeke (Deme) Tekle-Wold and Marta Gabre-Tsadick. Deme and Marta left Ethiopia and repatriated to the United States during the heart of Ethiopia’s repressive government. Wanting to help their fellow countrymen at home, they established Project Mercy as a way to help Ethiopians rebuild and lift themselves out of poverty.

Today, Project Mercy is run by Desalegne “Lali” Demeke , Marta and Deme’s son who manages the 52- acre compound that houses a school, a home for orphans, volunteer housing, a hospital, a new Health Science College and agricultural, cattle breeding and handicraft training services, to help empower the local community and improve their lives. Project Mercy is an incredible organization and I was excited to visit it in person.

Getting to Project Mercy was half the fun and required a land cruiser, a driver and a full day of adventure. We left Addis Ababa early in the morning heading for about three hours south into the heart of the Yetebon to arrive at the bumpy, gravel road that brought us to Project Mercy.

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Children of Mosebo Village

Hope in the Struggle for Ethiopian Maternal and Newborn Care

Reaching Mosebo village, about 42 kilometers outside of Bahir Dar in rural Ethiopia is not for the faint at heart. It requires a land cruiser, patience, and a bit of adventure to cover the hour and a half drive on bumpy, muddy roads to reach Mosebo and see how over 90% of Ethiopians live. If it starts to rain as it frequently does during Ethiopia’s three month rainy season, the road becomes dangerous and impassable.

Rural Ethiopian women

Once you leave the tarmac, you reach endless gravel roads and see the way the majority of Ethiopians live.

I visited Mosebo village as an International Reporting Project fellow to learn more about the miraculous success Ethiopia has made by achieving MDG 4 – reducing child mortality rates for children under five by two-thirds. Ethiopia stunned the world by achieving MDG 4 well ahead of the 2015 deadline yet there is still much progress to be made in reducing newborn deaths, particularly within the first 28 days of life which are the most dangerous days to be alive.

Per Save the Children’s “Ending Newborn Deaths Report”, every year one million babies die on the first and only day of life accounting for 44% of all deaths for children under the age of five. Nearly two million more children will die within their first month. Four out of five of these deaths are due to preventable, treatable causes such as preterm birth, infections and complications during childbirth.

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I’m Heading to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Fellow

I have very exciting news! I am honored to announce that I will be one of nine new media journalists heading with The International Reporting Project to Ethiopia in June to report on newborn health. The announcement was made yesterday and I can hardly wait to start researching and learning all I can about Ethiopia.

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Save the Children Releases 2014 State of World’s Mothers Report

Just in time for Mother’s Day, Save the Children released its 15th annual State of the World’s Mothers report this week revealing the best and most difficult places to be a mother. This year’s report focuses on saving the millions of mothers, newborns and children living in fragile communities due to conflict and natural disasters, and their everyday struggle to survive.

Being a mother is a tough job. I can attest. But imagine what it is like being a mother in a war-torn country or in a place that has been struck by a natural disaster. Caring for your family becomes a daily race for survival. It is something that no parent should have to imagine. I applaud Save the Children for their amazing work and dedication to saving the mothers and children of our planet. These are the voiceless. It is time to give them a voice.

A mother holds her baby suffering from spina-bafida malformation in the special Baby Care Unit at Turai Yaradua maternal and children Hospital, Katsina, Northern Nigeria. Photo Source: Pep Bonet/Noor for Save the Children

A mother holds her baby suffering from spina-bafida malformation in the special Baby Care Unit at Turai Yaradua maternal and children Hospital, Katsina, Northern Nigeria. Photo Source: Pep Bonet/Noor for Save the Children

Following is a summary of the highlights in the report and five key urgent actions required to help save mothers and children around the globe. All information below is taken directly from Save the Children’s 2014 State of World’s Mothers report. 

Save the Children's 2014 State of World Mother's report

Save the Children’s 2014 State of World Mother’s report

2013 proved to be a challenging year for mothers and children faced with an extraordinary amount of humanitarian crises. Sudan, Syria, The DRC and the Philippines have all experienced severe hardship while even here in the United States families have been displaced and children threatened after the Oklahoma tornadoes and dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The 2014 State of World’s Mothers Report documents the progress we’ve made as well as the critical steps that must be taken to ensure that all moms and children are safe.

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The Birth of a Mother

In honor of today’s release of Save the Children’s annual State of World Mother’s report, I am sharing the emotional aspects of my birth story to help advocate for the one million newborns that die needlessly and helplessly within the first 24 hours of life. By sharing my birth story, I am joining moms from across the United States to help bring awareness and advocacy steps in making the first 24 hours of life count. The bottom of this post will have more information on the results of the report and how you can help spread the word. 


Me and my son Max, right after his birth. 11/11/04.

I will be completely honest. I was never sure that I wanted to become a mother. At 32, I felt my life was already fulfilling enough, being happily married, working hard in my career and enjoying traveling to crazy places, running marathons and having all the freedom I could possibly want. Perhaps I was selfish but I was happy.

All this changed the day I was half way around the world, doing my very first dive in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, when I got the call. That terrible call that I will never forget. The call to tell me that my two-and-a-half-year-old nephew had unexpectedly died. I was in shock. It couldn’t be true. How could a healthy, beautiful happy child that I had seen only two weeks ago be gone just like a flick of a light. How could something so ungodly awful and tragic happen? I felt raw. Numb. And deeply distraught. Although I wasn’t a mother and I couldn’t possibly understand, I loved that little boy with the bright blue eyes and the dashing smile. It was that tragedy that made me realize how short and precious life truly is and how I couldn’t imagine not possibly being a mother myself.

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Why I am advocating for newborn health

Earlier this month, I posted on the upcoming Newborn Health Summit in South Africa and shared some tragic facts about how many children are not getting a chance at life. The post is called “Crisis and Hope in Newborn Health“.

As part of the Global Team of 200, I have been working with the Gates Foundation this month to spread word and awareness about global newborn health in honor of The Global Newborn Health Conference being held on April 15th in South Africa. The conference is supported by Save the Children. MCHIP, Gates Foundation, USAID andUNICEF.

Today, my YouTube video was released on why I am advocating for newborn health. It made me cry. It is so beautiful that I had to share. It is a part of who I am, what I believe, what I stand for, and why I must advocate for all those voiceless moms around the world  who won’t have the joy of watching their children grow up.

I am so honored to be part of the Global Team of 200 and truly looking forward to my upcoming trip to India this May where I will go to advocate and learn more about maternal health.

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