Solutions That Work: Bringing Maternal Care to Rural Women in Haiti

Above photo: Midwives For Haiti

This blog was originally published by Midwives For Haiti. Written by Summer Aronson.

Each day, 800 mothers in the world die from mostly preventable causes during pregnancy or childbirth and 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries. In other words, it is mostly the poorest women in the world who die from causes that we know how to prevent.

In Haiti, where the maternal and infant mortality rates are highest in the Western Hemisphere, mothers face three critical barriers to maternal care: lack of prenatal care, lack of transportation, and lack of skilled birth attendants. These barriers are acutely critical for rural women. Midwives For Haiti’s Mobile Prenatal Clinic address all three.

Photo: Midwives For Haiti

The Mobile Prenatal Clinic visits twenty remote villages in the Central Plateau of Haiti. The midwives carry their supplies and medications in old suitcases, which are strapped atop an all-terrain vehicle, and travel up to two hours over rutted roads, rivers, and streams to reach the women who would otherwise not have access to care. The team sets up in churches, schools, community buildings, or sometimes under a tree, and gets to work while expecting and newly delivered mothers wait patiently for the health care they know will make a difference for themselves and their babies surviving childbirth, or not.

Every Haitian mother knows a woman who has died from pregnancy or birth complications. Magdala Jean, a graduate of Midwives For Haiti who now works on the mobile clinic, says “Too many women are dying in birth. My cousin died because of eclampsia [a treatable complication]. I want women to have loving care and support.” In Haiti, the focus is on survival and hope that mother and baby will live through the many complications that are brought on by poor nutrition, malaria, worms, early hypertension, lack of prenatal care, lack of transportation and a lack of skilled birth attendants.

Photo: Cheryl Hanna-Truscott

By bringing comprehensive prenatal and postnatal care to rural women by skilled, compassionate providers (all graduates of Midwives For Haiti’s training program), the Mobile Prenatal Clinic closes a critical gap in care for very poor women. This care includes providing vitamins and iron supplements, maternal and fetal health assessment, lab testing and treatment for anemia, worms, malaria, sexually transmitted infections and referrals for HIV. Mothers also receive extensive education on the importance of nutrition, breastfeeding, danger signs of pregnancy and when to seek help. Every woman receives a chart and her health is followed throughout her pregnancy. Very ill mothers receive emergency transport to a medical facility.

The project is working. The Mobile Prenatal Clinic provides over 6,000 patient visits annually. Last year alone, the midwives transported 25 mothers for life saving emergency medical care. For the rural women of these 20 remote villages, the care these traveling midwives provide can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Photo: B.D. Cohen

We know how to end preventable deaths of rural mothers and babies. We know that it costs money to bring maternal care to these women. It costs $10 per patient visit to run these clinics in rural Haiti. With solutions like this, it is no longer a question of how, but why? When we hear the statistic that 800 mothers die each day while bringing life into the world, we must remember that it is mostly rural, poor women who are dying. And we need to ask ourselves, are the lives of these women worth saving? Midwives For Haiti has answered with a resounding “Yes.”

Midwives For Haiti relies on private donations to keep the Mobile Prenatal Clinic on the road all year round. Make a tax-deductible donation by May 29 to help them earn a matching grant and cover the annual cost of this life saving project. Each dollar donated will be matched, please give now.

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