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WHO Director-General appoints Liya Kebede as Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health

Liya Kebede and WHO Director-General Dr LEE Jong-wook
WHO/Jean-Marc Ferré
Liya Kebede and WHO Director-General Dr LEE Jong-wook

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr LEE Jong-wook today appointed Ethiopian fashion model Liya Kebede as WHO's Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. As Goodwill Ambassador, she will highlight the fact that each year more than half a million women die during pregnancy and childbirth, and nearly 11 million children die before they reach their fifth birthday. Almost all of these women and children die in developing countries.

A supermodel and a mother, Mrs Kebede will help WHO in its campaign to improve the health of mothers and children. Her appointment comes exactly one month before World Health Day 2005 - when WHO calls on the world to "Make Every Mother and Child Count". Liya Kebede's first official function will be to take part in the global World Health Day celebrations in New Delhi, India on 7 April.

"I am pleased to appoint Liya Kebede as WHO's new Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child health," said Dr Lee in a presentation at WHO Headquarters. "Liya 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 firsthand the huge gap that exists between two very different worlds and she passionately wants to use her global success and visibility to help bridge this gap."

Liya Kebede added, "As an Ethiopian and a mother, I was shocked to learn that so many women and children continue to die unnecessarily each year. In Ethiopia one in 14 women die in pregnancy and childbirth and two in every ten children die before their fifth birthdays. I am completely committed to using my profile to help ensure that these women and children's deaths no longer go unnoticed and unchallenged."

Prior to her appointment as WHO's Goodwill Ambassador, in January 2005, Liya visited the Addis Ababa Fistula hospital and the Missionaries of Charity Orphanage. She also visited Hiwot, the 17-year old mother from WHO's Great Expectations photo feature two days after the birth of her baby.

Maternal and child health is the theme of this year's World Health Report and World Health Day. The World Health Report will be launched in New Delhi on 7 April.

Reducing the number of women dying in childbirth by three-quarters and reducing child mortality by two thirds by 2015 is one of the key goals of the Millennium Declaration. These goals were agreed by world leaders from 189 countries at the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000.

Biography of Liya Kebede

Liya Kebede, WHO's Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
Liya Kebede, WHO's Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health

Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Liya Kebede graduated from the French Lycée in Addis. Liya subsequently moved to Paris to pursue her modelling career.

Liya has appeared on the covers of American, French, Italian, Spanish, Korean and Japanese Vogue, as well Time Style and Design. Other recent features include editorial spreads in American and British Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. She was recently voted model of the year in Asia.

Liya Kebede is currently a "face" of Estée Lauder - the first woman of colour to represent the brand in its 59 year history. This appointment has triggered countless more editorials in high profile publications, including the New York Times. Liya has been involved in modelling campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton, among others.

Liya has a global appeal. She has a passionate desire to use her success as a means to benefit the lives of people from her homeland and beyond. Liya speaks English and Amharic, as well as fluent French and some Italian.

She currently lives in New York City with her husband and their four-year old son, Suhul.

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For more information contact:

Rebecca Harding
Communications Officer
Family and Community Health
Telephone: +41 (22) 791 3229
E-mail: hardingr@who.int