With the support of an emergency grant by Every Mother Counts, Midwives For Haiti has been very busy doing outreach education and prevention of the Zika virus. Although this mosquito borne virus is indeed in Haiti and we have seen staff and patients with symptoms of Zika, we have no knowledge (yet) of confirmed cases of microcephaly or birth defects in infants. Still, we are doubling down on education and prevention efforts and attempting to reach rural women. Many of these women have never heard of Zika.
Nurse Sheila, staff and volunteers have been spending time in the region of Mount Roche Milte, near the Carrie Wortham Birth Center in Cabestor, and visiting families in this remote region of the Central Plateau. With visual aids of what babies with microcephaly look like and information on how Zika is spread and prevented, more than just pregnant moms were interested in learning about this virus and it’s potentially devastating consequences. Grandmothers, fathers, and children also engaged in the sessions.
Each day starts with a vague plan of an area of the mountain to walk to that we haven’t already reached. As soon as Sheila starts educating one woman in one house word of mouth traveled so quickly that by the time she was finished with the education portion of the intervention we had someone waiting to lead us to the next house. We would pass men farming who heard we had planning or were helping women who were pregnant and they would ask us if we could go to visit their wife, sister, or relative. When a group of school students walked by we asked if they knew of any women near their homes in need of our services. Each time we were lead by someone wearing thin flip-flops or barefoot who climbed without breaking a sweat as we (of course!) huffed and puffed our way behind them.
We were at the home of the woman sitting. She was in her first trimester and receiving education, a bug net and other resources. While Nurse Sheila was educating her on Zika the woman standing behind her and the woman in the polka dot dress paused in their food preparation to come over and hear what Sheila had to say. All three women and some young girls were listening in when the woman in the blue tank, who happened to be walking down the street at the time, came over to join us.
After Sheila was finished educating the women she asked the woman in blue how far along she was in her pregnancy. She was in her second trimester and qualified for some education at her home and a bug net! So began the trek to her house. We had to hurry to keep up with this strong mama who easily climbed the mountain in her flip flops.
Once we got to her house, her husband and children greeted us with the biggest smiles, a chair to sit, and fresh coconuts to refill our water bottles.
Meanwhile, in other regions of the Central Plateau, staff and midwives assigned to this project
are traveling with the mobile clinic to 22 remote villages and doing home visits, providing education and bed nets for pregnant moms. The more women we can reach in the fragile 1st trimester, which has been shown to have the most devastating effects for fetuses, the better chance we have to prevent the number of infant microcephaly cases and debilitating effects of the Zika virus in Haiti.
-Photos and story contribution: Catherine Malizia.