- A mother prays over her daughter, who suffered eclamptic seizures- an entirely preventable condition and the leading cause of maternal death in Haiti- and narrowly avoided death at 33 weeks pregnant because of the quick action of Midwives For Haiti graduates at Hospital St. Therese in Haiti. Photo essay by Cheryl Hanna-Truscott. Our staff at this public referral hospital manage over 2,000 deliveries each year, many of which are considered high-risk.
2. A proud matwòn, or traditional birth attendant, celebrates graduating from our Matwòn Outreach Program in Cabestor, Haiti. Matwòns (both men and women) attend roughly 75% of births in Haiti and supporting them with additional training to recognize danger signs and welcoming them into the medical system has been a very successful program. Soon after this class of matwòns graduated, a mother and her newborn were carried (by 19 neighbors) five hours over a mountain on a homemade stretcher when the matwòn recognized the immediate danger of mother’s retained placenta. Mom’s placenta was manually removed by the skilled birth attendants and volunteer midwives at the Carrie Wortham Birth Center. The matwòns knowledge to seek emergency care and the help of her community saved this mother’s life. More pictures here.
3. The Zika virus was found in Haiti. With devastating links to birth defects and microcephaly in infants of infected mothers, an emergency grant was provided by Every Mother Counts to reach rural mothers with the information and resources they needed to prevent Zika. Nurse Sheila hiked to remote villages over several months and reached hundreds of families who live so remotely that most had never heard of Zika. The Mobile Prenatal Clinic also provided education and hung mosquito nets in the homes of vulnerable women in 22 rural villages in the Central Plateau.
4. Haiti gained 29 more skilled birth attendants. Our 8th class of skilled birth attendants graduated in September, increasing our total graduates to 124. Many had jobs already waiting for them throughout the country and we expect all 29 graduates to be employed within a few months. Our employment rate is about 93% and graduates work in 8 out of the 9 districts of Haiti.
Also in September, 212 Haitian nurses from all over the country- one nurse traveled 9 hours to be there- gathered in Hinche (the line wrapped around several buildings) and applied for 30 spots in our 9th class. Prospective students presented requisite documents and sat for an exam. The strongest candidates were invited for interviews. Of these, 32 students were ultimately chosen and they begin their year long course in essential obstetric skills in Jan 2017. Our education program is free to our students.
5. Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti on October 4, devastating the country and erasing years of progress on maternal and infant health in a single day. In southern Haiti, where the devastation was greatest, we sent four graduates to prove direct relief at birth center Maison De Naissance in Les Cayes. These skilled birth attendants provided care to mothers and babies of the region while also relieving staff midwives so they could re-build their own homes.
6. One of our most popular social media posts this year was an unconventional birth story, as told by our birth center manager, Jean Mariot Cleophat: “I was on my way from Port-au-Prince to Mirebalais, I saw a crowd of people and pulled over and asked what’s going on. A woman was in labor, unconscious and biting her lips. I knew it was eclampsia. She had no ride to the hospital so I took her there. She had a c-section. Today, a week later on my way to PAP, I met the woman with her baby at a tap-tap stop. She didn’t recognize me because when I brought her to the hospital a week ago she was unconscious. I was so happy to see both mom and baby alive!!! I gave them a ride back home to Morne Cabrit. It was a pleasure for me because that’s what I do as job.”
Mariot and our midwives at the remote Carrie Wortham Birth Center welcomed over a hundred babies this year (including a set of twins), provided over 1500 prenatal and postnatal care visits, and dozens of emergency transports. The birth center is strategically located several hours from the nearest hospital and you must cross 21 rivers and streams from the main road to reach it. It is the only medical facility available in the remote community of Cabestor.
7. 2016 marked our 10th anniversary in Haiti. Ten years ago, midwife Nadene Brunk traveled to Haiti and saw firsthand the lack of skilled care available to pregnant women. She realized that instead of providing the care herself, teaching Haitian midwives to do this important work was far more impactful. A community leader asked her to start a school. When she got home, she emailed midwife friends from around the country and asked for help. Midwives For Haiti was born. A decade- and a lot of blood, sweat and tears!- later, 124 skilled birth attendants have been trained, over 1,000 volunteers have helped, tens of thousands of lives are touched with skilled care each year in Haiti, countless lives have been saved, and our education program continues. Read more from our Medical Director, Dr. Steve Eads and watch this 2 min re-cap video:
Thank you for your incredible support in 2016. Half of our modest annual budget comes from individuals like you. If you believe in our work and approach -that access to quality maternity care is a human right, midwives matter, and investing in the education and empowerment of women is critical to build a stronger and healthier future- we invite you to get involved in 2017.
Help us by spreading the word on social media and in your communities, starting a fundraising or making a donation, and volunteering your medical skills in Haiti: www.midwivesforhaiti.org