NEW PALTZ, New York — According to Midwives For Haiti, “Haiti has the highest maternal and infant mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere.” In 2021, the infant mortality ratio stood at 50.51 deaths per 1,000 live births. Meanwhile, the maternal mortality rate is 350 deaths per 100,000 births. The organization Midwives For Haiti works toward providing care for mothers and infants of Haiti by training skilled birth attendants in hopes of reducing maternal and infant mortalities.
High Infant and Maternal Mortality Rates in Haiti
Most of Haiti is rural with limited access to food, clean water, education and medical facilities. Since the 2010 earthquake that led to 250,000 deaths, the country has struggled with maintaining infrastructure and keeping the economy afloat. According to the World Bank, the poverty rate in Haiti stood at almost 60% in 2020. These factors make it extremely difficult for Haitian mothers to receive prenatal and postpartum care.
Some women also choose to have assistants known as matrons attend their births rather than trained professionals. Although matrons assist during births, they lack proper medical training and education, but many pregnant women choose them due to a sense of trust. There is also a shortage of skilled birth attendants and midwives in the country in general. According to the UNFPA, in 2014, there was only one doctor per 8,000 patients, one nurse per 6,000 patients and one midwife per 50,000 patients.
The Start of Midwives For Haiti
In 2003, Nadene Brunk traveled to Haiti as a member of a medical group. Assisting as a CNM (Certified Nurse-Midwife), Brunk noticed the inadequacy of resources to care for mothers and infants and a shortage of skilled medical professionals. In response, she gathered a small group of volunteer midwives and medical staff to visit Haiti. Shortly afterward, she founded “a culturally appropriate training program for Haitian nurses in Hinche.” Three years later, in 2006, Midwives For Haiti became an official nonprofit organization.
The Training Program for Future Midwives
Midwives For Haiti offers nurses an opportunity to undergo training to treat mothers and infants and provide stellar prenatal and postpartum care. Graduates of the 12-month program earn a Certificate in Advanced Obstetrics Training by the Haitian Ministry of Health and continue to work in hospitals and birthing centers across Haiti. In 2013, graduates provided more than 60,000 prenatal visits and helped with more than 12,000 births in Haiti. Since the foundation of Midwives For Haiti, 184 skilled birth attendants have received adequate training through the program, ensuring more than 126,000 “safe pregnancies and births” under the organization’s care. According to the Midwives For Haiti January 2022 newsletter, the organization’s help contributed to more than 4,000 successful pregnancies and deliveries in 2021.
The Mobile Clinic
In 2010, Midwives For Haiti took care of its patients to another level. The organization introduced the Mobile Clinic to provide care for mothers and infants without requiring them to leave their homes if they are unable to. Geographical challenges such as rivers and mountains make it difficult for women to make it to birth clinics safely and efficiently. Six birth attendants trek through 24 remote villages each month to provide prenatal and postpartum care. Birth attendants provide patients with vitamins, iron supplements, physical exams, blood pressure monitoring and pregnancy education. They also provide transport to the nearest medical facility for any patients experiencing medical emergencies. Mobile clinics serve more than 1,500 patients a month in rural villages of Haiti.
A Promising Future for Haitian Mothers and Infants
Midwives For Haiti continues to be an active group in the country but relies heavily on the support of donors to carry out its life-saving activities. The organization is making significant strides in effectively caring for Haitian mothers and infants and reducing poverty in Haiti. By saving the lives of mothers, more mothers can care for their children and work to provide for their families, greatly benefiting the economy.
– Megan Quinn