Hit by hurricanes, destroyed by earthquakes and devastated by poverty, Haiti is one of the poorest, most medically-deprived countries in the world. But thanks to Midwives For Haiti, more women and babies are now surviving childbirth
Words by Andrea Thompson
Many newborn babies in Haiti remain nameless for the first three weeks of their life. Tragically, the infant mortality rate is so high here (one in every 14 babies never reaches its fifth birthday) that mothers are too scared to bestow an identity on them.
This is one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, with hospitals destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 2010, which claimed the lives of a quarter million people, and a hurricane in 2016. It’s also one of the most dangerous places to give birth. Most maternal deaths are caused by eclampsia, sepsis, and postpartum hemorrhage (bleeding). Yet the majority of these deaths are entirely preventable, and the charity Midwives For Haiti is making a real difference. Seventy five per cent of deliveries happen at home with birth attendants who have little formal training. Many pregnant women also face a four-hour walk over tough terrain to get to their nearest health centre, sometimes with fatal consequences. However, Midwives For Haiti is educating nurses to become skilled birth attendants and empowering them to reach rural women, like Lithane, pictured above with her first child, who are most in need of help.
At St Therese Hospital, where there was traditionally just one obstetrician and midwife on duty from 8am-4pm, babies born outside of these hours were often delivered by the hospital cleaner. But for the past decade, Midwives For Haiti has paid for the salaries of 18 skilled birth attendants here to provide quality care to mothers 24 hours a day. Their 124 graduates working throughout the country have ensured 94,480 safe pregnancies and healthy births like the ones of these babies (pictured)
For more information about Midwives For Haiti and the progress the charity is making, visit midwivesforhaiti.org