Friday, May 27 , 2016, 11:55 pm | Fair 57º

Direct Relief Women Celebrate Mother’s Day with Benefit in Support of Maternal, Child Health Care

Dr. Steve Arrowsmith describes experience on front lines of obstretric care in developing world, and Direct Relief’s vital role

By Melissa Walker, Noozhawk iSociety Columnist | @NoozhawkSociety |

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Miracles were in the making as more than 100 supporters gathered at the fourth annual Direct Relief Women Mother’s Day Event at a beautiful home on Fernald Point Lane. The event benefited Direct Relief’s maternal and child health-care programs.

Guests dressed in casual spring attire mingled around a shimmering serenity pool and embraced the warm summer breeze from the ocean only mere steps away.

Linda and Mark Schwartz graciously opened their home to guests supporting and helping to create healthy families around the world.

There is a greater need for this type of care in poor areas of the world, with 99 percent of all childbirth-related deaths occurring where health services are limited or not available at all. More than 250,000 women die from complications during pregnancy or childbirth each year.

Direct Relief Women works to increase the availability, access and quality of health services during the full spectrum of pregnancy to the victims of disaster, political strife and poverty through service, education and financial giving in both the United States and worldwide.

The Goleta-based nonprofit organization helps the process by equipping midwives with the tools to provide life-saving delivery, antenatal and postpartum care.

“Direct Relief Women is really working to raise money to buy midwife kits,” said Kim Thomas, the event’s co-chairwoman. “And each midwife kit will help women in the villages have all the supplies they need to deliver safe births.”

For the cost of only $25, Direct Relief is able to provide for a safe birth for both child and mother, and more than 20,000 safe births have been provided for with the $500,000 in funds raised from the previous three Mother’s Day events. This years Mother’s Day Event funding goal was $125,000 to support 5,000 safe deliveries worldwide in 2014.

A second form of assistance is expanded emergency obstetric care, providing equipment to suitable health facilities, such as ultrasound machines and birthing beds.

Third, is fighting obstetric fistula that, if left untreated, causes women uncontrollable and constant leakage of feces and urine. An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop each year.

The special fundraising and education event also included a special guest speaker, Dr. Steve Arrowsmith, an obstetric fistula surgeon, instructor and medical adviser to Direct Relief’s fistula program.

Arrowsmith has dedicated his life to helping women who suffer from the condition that is caused by prolonged and obstructed labor. He shared with Noozhawk his role in the program and benefits that Direct Relief provides.

“I’m actually a consultant for Direct Relief in helping them to come up with the most efficient packaging for medical and surgical supplies to do the kind of surgery that we do in the developing world,” Arrowsmith said. “Direct Relief has really been a model in terms of learning a lot about the condition that they are trying to help and the people they are trying to serve.”

In the past, Direct Relief Women have conducted service trips to Direct Relief partner health-care sites in Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico.

The largest killer of children under 5 years of age is childhood pneumonia, making it more deadly than measles, malaria and AIDS combined, and the cause of death for 10.5 million children around the world.

In the Santa Barbara area, Direct Relief Women host fundraisers during the year to create awareness for maternal-child health initiatives. For more information on future Direct Relief Women events and activities, email Hayley Firestone Jessup at [email protected].

The efforts and support from Direct Relief to areas and people in crisis — locally and worldwide — would not be possible without the generous support of volunteers and supporters.

Some of the other forms of assistance that Direct Relief provides include the Healthy Smiles Program, Replenishment Program and the Direct Relief Network.

Depeche Mode band member and Montecito resident Martin Gore was first introduced to Direct Relief when he moved to town, and he emphasized to Noozhawk that the organization is really special and needed.

“There’s lots of disasters around the world all the time and just to have access to medical supplies and the fact that they have people on the ground that they can get those out there so quickly is amazing,” he said.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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