Appointment of Liya Kebede, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for maternal, newborn and child health

Geneva, Switzerland
7 March 2005

I'd like to thank you for coming today.

I am extremely pleased to introduce to you Liya Kebede, and to appoint her WHO's new goodwill ambassador for maternal, newborn and child health. This is a new face of WHO. We are also seeing her face on many magazine covers around the world, including Time, Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.

But that's not the most striking thing about Liya. What I appreciate especially is her sincerity and wisdom - which are remarkable for someone so young.

She is a perfect ambassador for this issue - not only is she a young woman and a working mother, she is an Ethiopian who has risen to the top of her industry. She has experienced the huge gap that exists between both worlds and she passionately wants to use her global success and visibility to help bridge this gap.

It is a fact is that 529 000 women die in childbirth each year and that 10.6 million children do not reach their fifth birthdays. It is also a fact that these deaths are occurring almost exclusively in the developing world because women there lack the resources, the education and, perhaps most importantly, the freedom to claim their right to a healthy birth.

Liya's contribution will help ensure that these women and children's faces gain global visibility, and will inspire people to take action - on World Health Day, and well beyond.