A recent article in the Washington Post Magazine by Wendy Galletta highlighted the realities of Haitian women, their prenatal care and birthing situations. The article I Saw A Lot of Women Who Died During Delivery, but I Did Not Know How to Help Them tells the story of what goes on in Haiti when is comes to Women’s health and pregnancy.
A nonprofit started in 2006, Midwives for Haiti is dedicated to providing skilled maternity care to mothers in Haiti. Considered the most dangerous place to give birth, Physicians and Midwives donation helps extends their skills beyond our borders to help Haitian women in need with their prenatal care and delivery.
A Glimpse into Haiti
It is hard to imagine giving birth in a makeshift building because hospitals are just not available. At St Theresa’s Hospital in Hinche, Haiti there is no running water. Waste is collected in buckets to be removed by workers throughout the day. Electricity can be iffy so midwives wear head flashlights to be able to continue delivering babies when the building goes dark. Items such as antibacterial creams are used sparingly because supplies are always low. Epidurals, which are commonplace in the United States, are almost non-existent in Haiti, and no one knows when or if the next supply of medicines needed for giving birth will show up. A birthing team does not exist because the staff is small and midwives are spread thin. One statistics states one midwife cares for over 50,000 women.
Juslene Regulus is a trained midwife from Hinche, and her story is quite common. Watching her cousin die during delivery and being unable to help, she decided to become a midwife. Midwives for Haiti, whose goal is to provide more skilled birth attendants, made her training possible. This intervention is the most important to assure a safe delivery and lower the infant mortality rate.
Haiti has been struggling to recover from the 2010 earthquake. Prior to the devastation, infant mortality rates had been dropping. The earthquake destroyed the country’s only school for midwives, killed many healthcare workers, destroyed hospitals and left the island is chaos. Many folks left for the sake of self-preservation. With fewer health centers, women now have to travel for hours on foot, some times over four hours, over rough terrain, crossing rivers and streams, to reach the nearest hospital.
Midwives for Haiti currently employees Haitian teachers, who are helped by visiting volunteers. To date 124 birthing attendants have been trained; 32 more will graduate in 2018. These attendants will return to their homes, like the small, remote village of Cabestor, where the infant mortality rate is three times the national average. The Cabestor center is run my Eclide Michel, herself a Midwives for Haiti graduate. She walks to make daily rounds to check up on mothers who have recently given birth, sometimes walking two hours to remote villages to make sure all is well.
Midwives in Haiti is working to change the hardships women face trying to get prenatal care and a safe birthing experience. Since it began it training center, which is housed at St. Theresa’s hospital in Hinche, the infant mortality rate has already started to decline. However it is important to understand that only 67% of the pregnant women get prenatal car, and of that only 37% have a trained attendant assisting at the birth.
The training provided for birth attendants is practical. In the morning after an opening prayer, students settle in to learn about pain management for the women giving birth. The classroom experience is dedicated to teaching about pregnancy, and once the instruction is ended, a team goes by truck out into the rural areas that have no medical professionals. Tables are set up, lessons in family planning are offered, and suggestions are given to pregnant women to help them have a healthy pregnancy.
The goal of the charity Midwives in Haiti is to replace tables with clinics and to train professionals to assure healthy pregnancies and safe deliveries. With donations like the one from Physicians and Midwives, Haiti will continue to move forward, lowering its infant mortality rate, raising its number of health care providers and health centers, and making Haiti a safer place for women and children.
Click here to read the full article on The Washington Post;