Support for the Most Fragile

Maternal and child health initiatives make a crucial difference in the lives of mothers and babies

Photo by Matthew McDermott
Haitian mothers waiting for prenatal care. Photo by Matthew McDermott

As AmeriCares works to strengthen health care in Haiti, there is a special focus on the health of pregnant women, new mothers and babies. Even before the 2010 earthquake destroyed much of Haiti’s health care system, Haiti had one of highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the world. Much of the $54 million in aid that AmeriCares has delivered to Haiti since the earthquake goes to support mothers and children.

Healthy Start: Mothers often carry their children for 10 hours to reach the Real Hope for Haiti clinic in the hills above Port-au-Prince. Real Hope for Haiti is just one of the 30 core partners that AmeriCares supports across Haiti with medicines, nutritional supplements and counseling for mothers and children. Every day, the waiting room is filled with mothers worried about their baby’s health. Ninety severely malnourished children live here. “When they smile and start playing, you know they are going to make it,” explained clinic director Lori Moise.

Urgent Care: After the 2010 earthquake, calls to the maternity ambulance serving the southwestern city of Jeremie increased by 60 percent. Without ambulance service, women were faced with the struggle of walking up to 18 hours for care, often delivering their babies on the road. In 2011, AmeriCares funded not only a new ambulance—doubling the capacity—but also the cost of trained midwives and nurses who care for patients en route. The Haitian Health Foundation, which operates the ambulances, estimates the new vehicle has helped save the lives of more than 70 expectant mothers in its first six months of operation.

Hospital Rescue: One Sunday last October, the number of pregnant women arriving at the free maternity hospital in Port-au-Prince doubled, then tripled. “Hundreds of pregnant women ready to deliver their babies walked, rode or were carried to the hospital,” said Jemps Civil, program associate for AmeriCares Haiti. The city’s only other maternity hospital had suddenly closed. Because it was Sunday, the staff had no way to get extra medicines and supplies. AmeriCares made a crucial delivery. “We don’t know what the hospital would do without that quick emergency response of AmeriCares,” said hospital administrator Pierre Michel Lumene.