UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador Ashley Judd shows the difference lifesaving health care can make

Ashley Judd visits a UNFPA clinic in Jordan. © UNFPA Jordan/Mohammad Abu Ghosh

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What happened to Ashley in the Congo

Ashley Judd, an American actress, activist, and UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, suffered a horrific accident on February 12, 2020 while researching endangered bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She tripped over a fallen tree and broke her leg in four places. She also suffered nerve damage. Judd described the event as “an incredibly harrowing 55 hours.” Luckily, she expects to make a full recovery and to continue her work in the Congo.  

Judd describes what took place after her accident with author and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. She spent hours waiting for help and was transported via hammock, motorbike, and bush plane. She finally reached a hospital that could treat her in South Africa.  

Ashley’s work with UNFPA and what you can do
Ashley Judd meets with survivors of gender-based violence at a UNFPA event in Ukraine. Violence is known to increase during humanitarian emergencies, like what the DRC is facing now. © UNFPA Ukraine/Maks Levin 

Judd has been an incredible advocate for UNFPA and has visited the agency’s work in such places as Jordan, Turkey, Ukraine, and Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka. She wanted to use her accident and platform to demonstrate how her privilege and the compassion of those around her allowed her to access lifesaving medical care. Judd said that even those who worked with her at the bonobo research center would have likely lost their leg or died if they had suffered the same accident she did. 

Judd directed Americans to donate to Friends of UNFPA to support UNFPA’s work in the DRC. This work includes caring for women through pregnancy and childbirth, providing access to family planning, and ending violence against women and girls, including child marriage. In 2019, UNFPA provided sexual and reproductive health care to 436,761 people in DRC. However, there are a variety of issues afflicting the DRC, including ongoing conflict, recurring outbreaks of Ebola, and a high rate of violence, that make UNFPA’s work nearly impossible. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these issues and has made the DRC one the most dire humanitarian situations in the world.  

With your donation, women will receive emergency birthing kits, which contain the basic essentials for a safe delivery. These kits include a sterile pad, an umbilical cord tie, a razor blade, a blanket, and gloves. 

Ashley Judd plays with children at a UNFPA-supported women-friendly space in Bangladesh. © UNFPA/Lauren Anders Brown

Judd, a three-time survivor of rape and women’s rights activist, particularly mentioned violence against women and girls. UNFPA cares for survivors by providing them with medical care and mental health counseling. UNFPA also maintains safe spaces where women and girls can build community with one another.

To hear Ashley Judd’s story about her injury in the Congo in her own words, click here.

Stand with Ashley Judd and support UNFPA's work in the Democratic Republic of Congo!


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