Salma Hayek's Powerful Breastfeeding Story Only Scratches The Surface Of Her Charity Work

"I want this world to be great. So I try to have my own contributions."

Over the weekend, Salma Hayek attended the 7th Biennial UNICEF Ball, where she received the Danny Kaye Leadership Award for her charity work with the organization. As the actress explained to CBS News, that work goes back more than a decade and has led to some pretty powerful moments.

Her work for women and children in Sierra Leone, for example, was the backdrop of a story Hayek told during her speech at Saturday's event, in which she recalled breastfeeding another mother's baby.

"This 15-year-old girl is sobbing and shaking with a newborn baby, and she said, 'Please help me. I need milk,' " Hayek shared, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "We had so many things but we didn't have milk, except I remembered that I had milk because I was weening my daughter. I just weened my daughter from breastfeeding not long ago and I said, 'I got milk.…' I sat down and I breastfed this baby.'"

During the same trip, Hayek helped to administer tetanus shots to children after she witnessed a baby die from maternal/neonatal tetanus. As UNICEF CEO and President Caryl M. Stern told THR, "In the ensuing years, UNICEF, Salma and other partners have eliminated [maternal/neonatal tetanus] in 44 countries."

Hayek's work for children in Sierra Leone is meaningful, as, according to the CIA World Factbook, the nation has the world's tenth-highest infant mortality rate, at 68.4 deaths per 1,000 live births. Breastfeeding is also a particularly important issue. According to the Guardian, Sierra Leone's ministry of health seeks to prevent malnutrition by dispelling myths and encouraging mother to exclusively breastfeed for a baby's first six months.

The actress told CBS News there were some who were "upset" about her breastfeeding story. But as she explained, "You know, there's a problem in Africa because now the milk companies are convincing them that infant milk that they sell is better than the mother's milk." She went on to add that it is "very important in Africa that these kids are breastfed because it's better for their immune system, the antibodies. You pass them through the milk."

But her stories from Sierra Leone only scratch the surface of Hayek's charity work, particularly for women and children. She told CBS News about working with prostitutes in Central America to promote AIDS awareness and condom usage, as well as her idea for Avon brochures to include the number of a domestic violence hotline. She's also worked with Mothers 2 Mothers, an organization that trains HIV-positive mothers in Africa to be health workers for their community. 

"Everybody can do a contribution. It's not about money," Hayek said about her activism. "Even kindness can be a contribution to the world you want to be a part of. And so I am a dreamer. I want this world to be great. So I try to have my own contributions."

(H/T: Hello Giggles)

Cover image: Denis Makarenko / Shutterstock.com

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