Brighton Magazine

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Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Chris Riddell: Brighton Based Children's Laureate Launches Drawing Breath Baby Campaign

Brighton's Chris Riddell, illustrator, political cartoonist and author, is behind a newVoluntary Service Overseas (VSO) fundraising campaign to help babies 'draw' their first breath in Sierra Leone, which has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. 

Hundreds of school children and illustrators across the UK will join Chris in drawing (and writing) stories to help illustrate the challenges and solutions to saving the lives of mothers and babies in Sierra Leone. 

Sierra Leone has a maternal death rate three times higher than the average sub-Saharan African country with 1 in 17 women still at risk of dying during pregnancy or childbirth. 

The Ebola outbreak has made the situation even worse as the number of women giving birth in health care facilities, where they receive skilled care, has fallen.

The highlight of the campaign will be Chris hosting a Facebook live broadcast as he "live illustrates" a mother and baby clinic in Binkola, Sierra Leone. 

Chris will draw the work of Andrew, one of VSO's 32-trained healthcare workers in Sierra Leone, who are on-call 24 hours a day delivering babies with few resources. Images of Andrew working will be sent to Chris in real-time via WhatsApp.

Chris has also made two unique illustrated short films that show the low cost but massive impact of basic equipment such as solar powered lights, and training for VSO community health workers: 

"Hearing your baby take its first breath is one of the most important moments in life. Yet for so many mothers and their newborn babies in Sierra Leone that moment doesn't happen because of a lack of basic equipment and skills. 

"I wanted to illustrate the simple solutions that will give so many babies the chance to draw their first breath and save so many lives." 

VSO has provided maternal and newborn care in Sierra Leone for 50 years. During the Ebola outbreak, as women stayed away from hospitals, VSO trained volunteers to help women give birth safely in their communities. 

The first overseas VSO volunteer doctor since the Ebola outbreak returned in 2016, focusing on encouraging pregnant women to give birth with medical support. 

Dr Philip Goodwin, VSO Chief Executive, said: "With the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, Sierra Leone is currently the worst country in the world to give birth. Tremendous progress had been made in reducing maternal mortality but there is still so much to do. 

"Our community health workers are working around the clock to safely deliver babies but we need to train even more health workers and equip them properly. 

"Collaborating with Chris Riddell to create the #DrawingBreath campaign is a great way to help raise awareness not only of the problem but of the simple solutions that we can all be part of." 

To watch the films and make a donation please visit:

by: Mike Cobley


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