CWOB: Maternal Health Care in Haiti
Where To Go for Care
To find a list of available health services in Haiti please click HERE.
Behavioural prevention is a crucial step in helping Haitian mothers and families avoid maternal health problems. There are several precautions that can be taken on a personal level as well in larger communities to create prevention strategies that will help reduce diseases. In addressing the issue with a wide scope, there are opportunities for the mass distribution of information that would be able to reach communities that have high maternal mortality throughout Haiti.
There are many preventive measures that women must be taught in order to help them avoid disease. If women are educated in these various ways, they will be better equipped for maternity and will be able to live a more healthy life.
CHALLENGE: Accessibility. One of the most significant challenges within Haiti in regard to health services is accessibility. Those who are living in rural areas of Haiti do not have access to proper health facilities or health care workers.
The potential solution? Radio broadcasting. In this, radio stations would broadcast David Werner's book, "Where There Is No Doctor", which is a medical guide directly aimed at people living in developing countries. By broadcasting this information over the radio, an alternative to school-based programs will be provided which is critical because many children are unable to attend school in developing countries. This book has useful information on how those living in developing countries can prevent, diagnose, and treat various diseases. This information can be utilized and administered to assist those who are unable to access health workers or a local hospital.
Since education is able to play a key role in prevention, it is clear that it would be able to help solve Haiti's maternal health problems.
CHALLENGE: Poor sanitation and/or hygiene. Some of the most critical information that women must possess in order to assure proper and successful maternal health has to do with proper sanitation and hygiene in order to reduce the risk of spreading infections.
With this, women must learn how to properly wash food, boil water, and utilize correct cleaning techniques to kill any parasites and diseases without damaging the nutrients in the food. Furthermore, properly disposing of waste is a simple measure that can be promoted to drastically reduce the spread of diseases.
An emphasis on safe sex, by means of sexual education, is also crucial in helping to prevent STDs and HIV/AIDs. As such, all Haitian women should be educated specifically on maternal issues, and pregnant women should learn how to care for themselves in order to effectively eradicate Haiti's poor maternal health.
CHALLENGE: The primary causes of maternal mortality in Haiti are dependent on access to healthcare and health services. Due to the extreme poverty of Haiti, it is clear that alternative methods of health care delivery must be utilized in order to reach women in rural areas. There are, however, various socio-economic conditions that make it difficult to implement these projects for maternal health.
Haiti’s high maternal mortality is partially due to the delay in seeking appropriate medical help for an obstetric emergency. In this, Haitian women are not able to receive medical assistance when they first need it, making it more likely that complications will arise. The scope of health services must increase, along with its quality, in order to significantly help Haitian women in issues of maternity.
CHALLENGE: Reliance on traditional healers rather than trained professionals. Women who rely on healers are less likely to have their children vaccinated, and are consequently put at risk for many preventable diseases. Due to many existing and unfavourable socio-economic conditions, Haiti's institutional and structural concerns have taken precedence over concerns about health care resulting in a lack of government focus on maternal health. Moreover, international support may be necessary in order for Haiti to recover from its social-political turmoil and combat the issues associated with maternal health.
Therefore, women must be assertive in caring for themselves where the health care system fails to do so. While it is clear that Haiti must address its various issues to lower maternal mortality, Haitian women must also find ways to receive proper health care instead of relying on untrained healers.
If professional care is completely unavailable women must be able to care for themselves, which could only result from an emphasis on education in Haiti to promote sanitation, hygiene, and better maternal health.
Although Haiti is in a transition period where responsibility is being handed back to the government, NGOs and public health systems continue to have a vital role in Haiti’s healthcare. Ministry of Public Health and Population has been active in providing Haiti with technology to monitor possible disease outbreaks. This organization has experienced further triumphs in Haiti by helping to develop techniques for effectively utilizing its resources.
However, there is also a lack of cooperation between NGOs and the government. NGOs fail to consider the economic repercussions of their actions and that in order to be truly effective, they must work more closely with Haiti’s government to build a sustainable public health sector. Despite the surge of aid since the earthquake in 2010, many Haitian women still face unsafe birthing conditions. The lack of access to healthcare along with scarce information on family planning makes it difficult for prospective mothers in Haiti to live.
To combat these maternal health challenges, the Canadian International Development Agency has received funding from CIDA to reduce maternal mortality through family planning, education and the provision of medicine. Similarly, the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health has provided useful information for organizations dealing with issues associated with maternal health in regions such as Haiti.
To try and alleviate Haiti of its maternal health burdens, the Partners in Health organization has built a women’s health clinic to focus specifically on maternal health. Moreover, the organization has provided training for health workers in an attempt to prevent a further rise in maternal mortality.
While these organizations are geared directly toward Haiti’s maternal health issues, it is clear that more must be done to teach women how to care for themselves and seek help when it is needed. If organizations can help by spreading behavioral prevention techniques, the women of Haiti will be more able to lower maternal mortality and engage in healthy family planning decisions.
If you would like a printable, downloadable PDF version of this section of the site (Behavioural Prevention in Haiti), please feel free to download the document provided below:
For a full, unabridged report on behavioural prevention for maternal health care, please help yourself to the following downloadable, printable PDF document:
Identifying Risks of Maternal Health
“While the needs for recovery in Haiti are great, the opportunities presented by the outpouring of international support suggest that Haiti can make great strides forward from the poor health status and health system in place prior to the earthquake. Leveraging this, international commitment and strengthening nursing [and health care workers] education and practice are crucial to Haiti’s recovery and health system development.” - Freiden, Dowell and Tappero 2011
The earthquake in Haiti followed by a hurricane has left an already impoverished country in ruins. A resource-poor country in the Caribbean with poor healthcare, almost non-existent public infrastructure for transportation, few preventative measures in the form of education or adequate sanitization in any avenue as well as fierce gender dynamics that surround social and political life. After Haiti was ravaged by two consecutive natural disasters it received, and continues to receive an abundance of foreign aid support. However even with this aid being received from all sides of the world there are basic maternal health issues that continue to affect the lives of Haitian women.
Adequate Sanitation and Hygiene
One of the most fundamental aspects of maternal health is adequate sanitation and hygiene. In the developed world, public outreach begins at an early age and surrounds us throughout our lives. In the lives of most Haitian women, these innovations are absent. Public health education and education for existing health care professionals needs to be integrated into policy structures in Haiti. The government needs to assess the best way of empowering women so that they may exercise their right of autonomy and make healthy decisions on an individual basis and also for their families.
Sexual education as well as sanitization is a common shortfall in the Haitian health care system for women. Inadequate drinking and bathing water can lead to a number of health related issues, including fungal infections in women and chronic diarrhea. These injustices will need to be dealt with at a structural level; however, the consequences can be transformed in the meantime. For example: public health education initiatives to sanitize water by boiling it, or to seek medical attention for chronic diarrhea.
Education for mid-level health care workers, public out-reach and prevention education for women of Haiti (through radio broadcasts, church services, shaman/traditional healer cooperation etc.) would be a very effective and positive investment in the future of Haiti’s women and their health.
As development professionals are aware, there is a strong need for cultural sensitivity towards women and their families. Not only to better the women’s understanding, but also to gain respect and trust between educators and women. Sanitization efforts may seem very trivial and rudimentary to a citizen of the global north, however many healers preach different practices to their patients, which may contain ritualistic ceremonies with animal blood, feces or dirt and mud from the ground. To work with the traditional healers to help negotiate and compromise a healthier and more sanitary way of performing these rituals is providing an outlet for education for these Haitian women.
A lack of access to family planning, prenatal and obstetric care, and a need to engage in "survival sex" (in order to buy food) on top of sexual violence have led to high pregnancy rates in refugee camps. Some women have had to give birth under dire conditions, for example, on muddy floors of tents, with no prior knowledge or ability to avoid the dangerous practices associated with these conditions.
If you would like a printable, downloadable PDF version of this section of the site (Identifying Risks of Maternal Health in Haiti), please feel free to download the document provided below:
For a full, unabridged report on identifying risks of maternal health in Haiti, please help yourself to the following downloadable, printable PDF document:
Emergency Procedures Checklist
To download a copy of the emergency procedures checklist, you can find it listed below in PDF format. To view the complete checklist in simple text format, please click HERE.