The power of being there
Snapshots of impact
A new era at FCI
July 14, 2014
Spreading the Word, Saving Women's Lives
Stories of Hope
Confronting Age-Old Problems
Making a Difference
February 15, 2011
A Tale of Two Women
May 17, 2010
Investing in Our Common Future: Healthy Women, Healthy Children
September 29, 2009
Think globally, act locally
July 30, 2009
Funding the health MDGs
May 11, 2009
International Women's Day and maternal health
March 9, 2009
Inaugurating a new direction part II
January 27, 2009
Inaugurating a new direction
January 20, 2009
Then and now
December 16, 2008
A note on the US election
November 10, 2008
The power of being there
Deep in the Bolivian Amazon, María was in the final weeks of pregnancy when she experienced painful and frightening complications. After an arduous, hours-long journey to the nearest health clinic, the doctor treated her and told her to go home and wait. But María was afraid that she wouldn’t survive another long journey during a difficult and complicated labor.
Mariam, a widow from a remote village in Burkina Faso, West Africa, was living deep in the shadows. For more than 16 years, she suffered the humiliation and isolation of life as a survivor of obstetric fistula, a devastating disability that results from obstructed labor without appropriate emergency care.
After civil war erupted in northern Mali, 19-year old Dieneba was captured and repeatedly raped by rebels who invaded her native Timbuktu. She finally escaped, fleeing with her mother and young son to Mopti, a city 250 miles south along the Niger River. Forced into prostitution, she had multiple sexually-transmitted infections and was in constant physical and emotional pain.
Sekou, a teenager in the slums of Bamako, Mali’s capital, worried that his friends were taking terrible risks. In a country where 100,000 people are living with HIV, the word on the street was that HIV and AIDS are all a big lie, and that unprotected sex isn’t really so dangerous.
Thanks to the support of our generous donors, Family Care International was there to help them.
María and her healthy (and vaccinated!) newborn baby boy are back in their village, because she spent the last days of pregnancy at a maternity waiting home near the clinic — a new waiting home that FCI fought for and helped to set up. Thanks to FCI and our local partners, Mariam had fistula-repair surgery and now runs a successful business raising sheep and selling beignets (donuts) in the local marketplace. Dieneba is now safe and healthy, thanks to medical, psychological, and financial support from an FCI program to help survivors of gender-based violence in Mali’s civil war.
And Sekou is teaching his friends how to prevent HIV infection and unintended pregnancy, thanks to an innovative FCI peer education program. “A lot of my friends,” he says, “told me that they now believe AIDS exists, thanks to the information that I gave them!”
FCI works towards a world where all people have the knowledge to keep themselves healthy and the choices to freely exercise their reproductive rights. We work to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother and baby. We strengthen grassroots organizations and activists, building their advocacy skills and influence so they can speak up effectively and powerfully for their own communities’ priorities. We partner with countries to improve their reproductive, maternal, and newborn health policies and programs, anddemand that governments be accountable for keeping their promises.
With your help, we fight not for quick fixes, but for practical, sustainable, locally-owned, evidence-based solutions. We fight for the 800 women and thousands of newborns who still die needlessly in pregnancy and childbirth every single day. We fight for more than 220 million women who still don’t have access to the birth control that they want and need. We fight for real change; our work saves lives.
You are an essential partner in this important work. Your support for FCI is an investment in our common future, one that empowers women and young people, strengthens families and communities, and builds a healthier and more equitable world.
FCI was there for María, Mariam, and Dieneba, for Sekou and his friends. We are there for the thousands upon thousands of women and young people who still do not have access to the health services and information that can save their lives. We will be there for as long as it takes.
Please be there with us.
My very best wishes,
Snapshots of impact
Autumn 2014 (from 2012-2013 FCI Biannual Report)
Dear friends and colleagues,
A young woman in Kenya, arriving at a remote clinic for prenatal care, is greeted by a skilled nurse. Deep in the jungles of Bolivia, a woman boards a boat to the nearest town—inaccessible by road—to pass the final days of pregnancy at a waiting home nearby the provincial hospital. In a Malian slum, a teenager and her boyfriend learn to protect themselves from HIV and unwanted pregnancy. A first-time mother, learning to nurse her newborn son, holds him tight: mother’s milk and warm, bare skin, two of nature’s lifesaving medicines. A young woman walks out of a pharmacy, emergency contraceptives in hand. A midwife administers a drug that stops a life-threatening postpartum hemorrhage, and a woman lives to take her baby home.
Simple moments: snapshots of the unglamorous, daily work of saving women’s lives.
Family Care International’s dedicated professionals, our partners in more than two dozen countries, and our generous donors make these amazing moments happen every day. We help our local partners identify and address their communities’ most pressing health challenges, by developing practical solutions owned by the countries and villages where services, information, and supplies are so desperately needed. We train community organizers and peer educators, outreach workers, activists, and health administrators. We promote innovative health interventions that save lives, push for broader access to essential services, and help women and communities claim their rights. We bring key players together, around a conference table or on a dusty village street, to agree on and implement progressive, sustainable, evidence-based solutions. We cajole, we negotiate, we advocate. We help women and communities demand accountability.
When a country moves too slowly to reduce maternal and newborn death, when politicians fail to deliver on health budgets, when aid donors don’t follow through on the funding they’ve promised, when clinics lack skilled midwives or essential medicines, when a woman dies because emergency care was unavailable: FCI empowers our partners to insist on action.
Together, we have made great progress over the more than quarter-century that FCI has been at this work. Half as many women and children will die this year as in 1990. Still, 800 women will be lost today to preventable pregnancy-related causes; 16,000 babies, today, will be stillborn or will die during their first month of life; millions of women, every day, lack the services and information they need to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.
In 2013, as testament to the impact of our advocacy and the effectiveness of our leadership, FCI was honored with the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.
As always, we welcome — and so deeply appreciate — your support and partnership in our urgently important work.
Chair, Board of Directors
A new era at FCI
July 14, 2014
Dear friends and colleagues,
I am writing to our community to share FCI’s leadership plans as we move into the next stage of our organizational life.
As many of you have already heard, last Friday was Ann Starrs’s last day as FCI’s president, and I will begin by expressing our great appreciation for her commitment, for her leadership, and for the great and lasting impact of her work. Ann was with FCI since it was founded in 1986 (with only a brief break during her time in graduate school), and served as our president since 2008. Working with the excellent FCI team, both at headquarters in the field, she played a central role in making FCI what it is now: a leading international NGO dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safer for women and newborns in the developing world, active globally and on the ground in Africa and Latin America. Ann’s career at FCI was one of momentous impact. She has been a true leader, within FCI and across our field, and I look forward to her continued leadership as she moves on to her next, exciting opportunity. While we at FCI will miss her as our president, it gives me great pleasure to announce that Ann will remain part of the FCI “family,” today joining our Board of Directors.
With this transition comes an opportunity to recognize and strengthen the leadership provided by FCI’s senior staff, and I am pleased to announce the promotion of Amy Boldosser-Boesch to Vice President of Global Advocacy, and Amy’s agreement to serve as FCI’s interim president. Amy has been with FCI since 2010, and has served as Director of Global Advocacy since 2012. She brings to these new roles tremendous skills as a strategist, speaker, and collaborator, and a deep knowledge of programmatic and technical issues in sexual and reproductive health/maternal, newborn and child health. Her promotion reflects the respect and esteem of FCI’s Board and staff, and the strong, constructive relationships that Amy has built in the global and U.S. advocacy community. This role of interim president will call upon her demonstrated abilities and orientation toward organizational leadership and management, as well as her strategic vision, fundraising, and financial management skills.
During this transition, Amy will be closely supported by her colleagues on FCI’s management team:
- Adam Deixel, who has served as Director of Communications and Development since 2008, and who has also been promoted to vice president
- Martha Murdock, who has been with FCI since 1997 and has served as Vice President for Regional Programs since 2010
- Maureen Burnley, who began as Director of Finance and Administration on June 9th. Maureen has worked in non-profit finance and administration for much of her career, most recently with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontieres USA. Prior positions and her community service activities, including with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the United Negro College Fund, demonstrate her commitment to civil rights and equality. Maureen has a Bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College and an MBA from Baruch College. We are thrilled to have her on board.
We thank all of our wonderful colleagues, supporters and friends for their contributions to our common cause, and look forward to continuing to work in partnership as FCI embarks on this exciting next phase.
Chair, Board of Directors
Spreading the word,
saving women's lives
A couple of weeks ago, at a global conference on family planning, I had breakfast with an African colleague who told me this story of a young pregnant woman in one of the villages where Family Care International works:
Mariam was working on her family farm one day when she suddenly doubled over in pain. She headed home, planning to give birth — like every woman in her village — on the dirt floor of her hut. Partway home, she collapsed, unable to go further.
The village Imam, religious leader of this remote, conservative Muslim community, came upon her. A month earlier, he had been to an FCI training workshop where Muslim and Christian clergy learned about maternal health. “She was writhing in pain,” he said later. “I quickly recalled the danger signs we were told about during the training.”
He took Mariam to the health center, miles away, where she gave birth safely, assisted by a midwife. A week later, the Imam preached in the mosque about the importance of skilled childbirth care and family planning. “With the knowledge I received from the training,” he concluded, “it would be unjust not to use it to help others.”
Just a simple, unremarkable moment of humanity and community, in a tiny village halfway around the world. But before attending FCI’s workshop, this Imam considered pregnancy and childbirth to be women’s concerns, and maternal death an unavoidable fact of life. One simple moment; one woman, facing the risk of life-threatening childbirth complications, lives to take her baby home; and an informed, motivated leader changes the life of every woman and child in his village, forever.
Your support for FCI creates hundreds of simple, lifesaving moments like these:
- A teenager, no longer in school, goes with her friends to a community center, where they learn how to avoid pregnancy and HIV
- A mother and newborn baby survive because FCI won government approval for a safe, inexpensive drug for post-partum bleeding
- A midwife, after advocacy training, secures reliable contraceptive supplies for her clinic
- An African president declares that reducing maternal and newborn deaths is now his top priority
These simple, unglamorous, world-changing moments save lives — thousands of women, who rise each morning, go to work, care for their children, and pursue their dreams. In Africa, Latin America, and around the world, FCI breaks down the barriers that stop women from getting essential maternal and reproductive health care. FCI works with local activists, health workers, and village leaders to amplify the voices of women and communities and to develop sustainable, cost-effective, home-grown solutions.
These partnerships are at the center of our success. Over the quarter-century since FCI sparked the global safe motherhood movement, maternal mortality has been cut in half. We and our partners continue fighting to prevent every tragic, needless death.
One other partner is crucial to FCI’s lifesaving work: you. Your partnership, your decision to do something, is an investment — in healthier women, stronger families, and a better world.
There is so much work still to be done. Every two minutes a woman dies, simply because she doesn’t have access to basic pregnancy and childbirth care. And one day soon, another young woman, nine months pregnant, frightened and in pain at the side of a dusty West African road, will need help.
Family Care International will be there for her.
Please be there with us.
P.S. This year, FCI was one of only a very few exceptional non-profits selected for the MacArthur Foundation’s prestigious Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Your contribution will make sure we can keep working — creatively and effectively —to make pregnancy and childbirth safer.
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
Confronting Age-Old Problems
For pregnant women in poor countries, joy and expectation are always mixed with fear. They know that giving birth is one of the most dangerous things they will ever do. Today, a thousand women in the villages and cities of the developing world will die needlessly from complications — preventable and treatable complications — of pregnancy and childbirth, and a thousand more tomorrow.
Over the last century we learned, for the first time in human history, how to make pregnancy and childbirth safe. And yet, all over Africa, Asia, and Latin America, women continue to die as if these transformative advances in knowledge and technology had never happened.
Imagine a classroom somewhere in Africa, filled with eager, chattering teenage girls. The statistics tell us that one of them will fall victim to this epidemic of maternal death. For too many of those schoolgirls, their reproductive years will be a minefield of unintended pregnancies and unattended deliveries; those who are lucky will make it out alive.
For the unlucky one, death may come in a tiny hut in a remote village, where there’s nothing to do when a new mother starts bleeding but watch her die. It may find her at a clinic, where no one has the skills to perform an emergency C-section. Or she may die in a city hospital, after arriving too late when unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion led to a life-threatening infection.
Each maternal death becomes the center of a wider circle of devastation and pain: a newborn who won’t survive without his mother, a daughter who must leave school to go to work or take care of younger siblings, a grieving husband getting by on half the family income, parents suffering an unspeakable loss, a community deprived of a young woman’s energy, creativity, and productivity.
Family Care International has been working for a quarter-century to build long-term, sustainable solutions to these age-old problems. We are in the slums of Mali, helping young people protect themselves from unintended pregnancy, HIV, and sexual violence. We are in mountain villages in Ecuador, making sure that indigenous women choose to give birth in modern clinics because they know they’ll receive respectful, high-quality care. We are on the edge of the Sahara in Burkina Faso, and in the Amazonian swamplands of Bolivia, to ensure that women can reach the emergency obstetric care that will save their lives. And on the global stage, FCI is one of the world’s leading voices for maternal and reproductive health, fighting to put women’s lives at the top of the policy agenda, and to make sure that governments follow through on their promises.
This work is urgently important, and we will keep at it until every woman can decide for herself whether and when to have children, until every woman who chooses to get pregnant has access to skilled care throughout her pregnancy and childbirth, until surviving pregnancy is not just a matter of good luck.
But we cannot do it alone: we need your support.
Even in the midst of the current global financial crisis, major foundations, governments, and other donors continue to support FCI’s programs. But cutbacks in their budgets mean that we need your help to fill critical funding gaps. Your contribution is essential to all of FCI’s vitally important work, now more than ever. Please give as generously as you possibly can.
Thank you, as always.
Ann M. Starrs
Making a difference
February 15, 2011
A few minutes ago, a young woman in Kenya developed a sudden hemorrhage just after giving birth; she received emergency treatment, and survived. Right now, an expectant mother in India is getting medicine to control the high blood pressure that threatens her life and that of her baby, due to be born within weeks. Later today, a teenage girl in a Bolivian mountain village will learn how to use contraceptives; she won’t get pregnant until she decides she’s ready, will finish school, and will have a chance to lift herself out of poverty.
These are the powerful, if unremarkable, stories of women whose lives are being saved every day in our battle against maternal death. When Family Care International began in 1987, more than half a million women were dying every year from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. New research shows that the policies and programs FCI has fought to put in place are working — maternal deaths have been reduced by nearly 200,000 a year. Every three minutes, a woman who would have been carried to the graveyard now goes home to her family, child in her arms.
FCI’s work over the past two decades has helped make this happen. Here is some of what we’ve done this year, thanks to the support of FCI’s donors:
- In Burkina Faso, a landlocked, desperately poor country in West Africa, we helped residents of nearly 700 rural villages — most of which lack even basic health clinics — arrange transportation so that women with obstetric complications can get the lifesaving care they need; and we continued our program that has provided more than 300 women with surgical treatment for obstetric fistula, a childbirth injury that often leads to a lifetime of illness and social ostracism.
- In South America, FCI provided women in indigenous communities with information and skills to fight for the maternal health services that are their legal right; and we partnered with six national governments to identify and promote the most effective ways to help teenagers — whose risk of maternal death is four times higher than for adult women — avoid getting pregnant.
- In New York, we teamed up with the UN Secretary-General to launch a Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, an unprecedented, progressive plan to save the lives of 16 million women, newborns, and children in the world’s poorest countries. Almost 50 countries committed to new financial investments, policy changes, and health services, giving our work more visibility and greater momentum than ever before.
These successes, and the many women’s lives that have been saved, do not mark the end of our work —only the end of the beginning. A pregnant woman or new mother still dies every ninety seconds, 350,000 each year. Almost all of these deaths are preventable, and at least one in five results from an unplanned pregnancy.
That is why FCI is here, and why we urgently need your generous contribution. FCI holds governments accountable for meeting their commitments to invest in maternal health and family planning, build clinics, train health workers, and distribute essential medicines. We educate doctors, nurses, midwives, and clinic managers to offer appropriate, effective care. And our programs and publications empower women and communities to demand the information, education, and health services they need to make healthy decisions, avoid unwanted pregnancy, and live healthy, productive lives.
Your help is essential to all of FCI’s critically important work, now more than ever. This year, the global financial crisis has severely limited the grants available from governments and foundations: we need you to help fill the gap. Please give as generously as you possibly can. Thank you, as always.
Ann M. Starrs
A tale of two women
May 17, 2010