Do-Gooders: Liya Kebede, The Liya Kebede Foundation

Liya Kebede is a supermodel on a mission. Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Kebede, herself the mother of two, was first inspired and then driven to find a way to give back to mothers in developing countries. "It was so common in Ethiopia to have women die in childbirth," she says, sadness in her voice. "It wasn't even a surprise. I had my son in New York, and the difference of giving birth in a hospital and in Africa was mind-boggling. In Africa, a woman has to deliver in a hut by herself with no clean water, no doctor, not even a health technician. It just hurt me and touched me." Working as a Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Organization, Kebede started The Liya Kebede Foundation, which focuses on reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality through education, raising awareness internationally and finding donors to pump much-needed dollars to combat the problem. "The situation is so grave. We have to interfere," Kebede pleads. "A woman dying in childbirth is preventable and treatable. That's the worst part of the equation -- they are actually dying from something they shouldn't be dying from."

Kebede has used her supermodel profile and connections to raise money and wake the world up to an epidemic that needs to be combated in sub-Saharan Africa. An appearance on Oprah helped, as do her trips to Africa, but she says the biggest obstacle is getting the international community to take notice. "In countries like the U.S., people don't know about this problem," she says. "It's under-funded on both sides, from the developing countries to the international community. More than half of the African population is women. We can't just let them die. We can prevent this. This is a winnable fight and we have to do everything to win it." Peter Davis


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