Supporting High-Quality Maternity Care in Northern Haiti

Through the help of grants provided by Direct Relief  to support the work of Haiti Hospital Appeal, the lives of thousands of mothers and babies have been saved. The UK-based charity provides high-quality maternity care to women in northern Haiti as part of their overall mission to improve health care in Haiti.

The need for maternal care in Haiti is high. According to a U.S. Agency for International Development report, 75 percent of births in northern Haiti take place at home without skilled birth attendants, with 31 percent of maternal mortalities as a result of eclampsia, or severe seizures, and 22 percent from hemorrhaging, or profuse bleeding, as a result of both a lack of attendance or underqualified attendance. Poorly-trained Traditional Birth Attendants fail to refer high-risk pregnancies to hospitals and often pregnant women cannot get transport to the hospital.

In response to these devastating statistics, Haiti Hospital Appeal and Direct Relief joined forces to enable women to deliver safely in northern Haiti using the following four-prong approach:

1)      Antenatal care and reproductive health: Working in the communities, mobile staff will work directly with vulnerable pregnant women, and also through the Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) already working there, to increase the access that pregnant women have to antenatal care, through screening and education, allowing high-risk pregnancies to be identified earlier and childhood disabilities reduced.

2)      Obstetrical emergency response: There is a need for an expedient way for emergencies to be transferred to hospital in order for maternal deaths to be reduced. TBAs will be trained to recognize and refer difficult cases to ensure a safe birthing environment through safe birthing kits and pictorial record keeping.

3)      Childbirth care: A modern operating unit is staffed by professionals trained to carry out complicated deliveries, such as caesarean sections, forcep and vacuum deliveries.

4)      Newborn and postpartum care: A 6-bed neonatal unit will provide specialised care to premature babies, offering incubators, oxygen and appropriate medications.

Through a $50,000 grant from Direct Relief, Haiti Hospital Appeal has been able to launch their mobile maternity outreach services to provide the essential pre-natal care and screenings to pregnant mothers who cannot access the hospital. They have also used these funds to set up a phone bank and ambulance service for those women facing severe obstetrical emergencies. This service is not only saving the lives of mothers and babies, but resulting in healthier babies whose mothers received the pre-natal care they needed.

Additionally, after receiving another $72,000 grant from Direct Relief, the hospital was able to purchase all of the equipment needed for the maternity operating theater. Since April 2012 when they began performing surgeries, their three OB/GYNs have performed more than 100 caesarian sections and treated more than 2,500 women facing everything from post-partum hemorrhages to cancer of the uterus to pre-eclampsia and eclampsia.

On a recent trip I made to the hospital in February, I saw the nurse cleaning the operating theater after performing a successful hysterectomy, a procedure that would have been unheard of just a year earlier and is not even available in the majority of hospitals in Haiti. None of this would have been possible before and indeed, the majority of those women may have likely died without the availability of these services. We are honored to work with Haiti Hospital Appeal and support this important work.

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