Category Archives: Haiti Reporting Trip

Newborn and Child Health Education Through Haitian Art

Inside the child malnutrition unit at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, the largest regional hospital in Haiti’s Artibonite region, colorful murals have been painted over the beds. They were specifically designed to teach parents, especially mothers, how to keep their newborns and children healthy and well-fed.

In Haiti one in five children suffers from chronic malnutrition and 6.5 percent of Haitian children suffer from acute malnutrition. Chronic malnutrition is described as stunting or shortness. Acute malnutrition is wasting or thinness.

This mural in Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti shows mothers the importance of breastfeeding their newborns as well as the importance of taking their babies to the Centre de Santé (health center).

Health messaging art

Haiti has a 53 percent literacy rate making it imperative that health messaging at the hospital is conveyed through art as well as through color-coded words. For example, the hospital’s social services are all written in red so those who cannot read can easily find that department. Additionally, for those who can read all signs are written in French as well as in Creole as language politics in the region are quite heightened.

Mothers instead of fathers are more likely to tend to their children in the malnutrition unit like the mothers I saw when I visited. Some mothers were feeding their children and others were sitting with their children who were too weak to be awake.

Haitian women have a lower literacy rate than men in Haiti making messaging through art critical to driving home nutrition education in this unit.

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[Photos] Haiti Works Toward Eliminating Maternal Tetanus

Casimer Dieuvela, 24 years old and five months pregnant, lives two to three hours walk from her monthly health post in Deschappelles, Haiti, but she goes despite the distance to receive her tetanus shot.

It’s her third time coming to the health post run by health agent Junior Exanthus and arranged by Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS). Dieuvela brings her daughter to receive her full course of vaccinations. HAS also immunizes pregnant women for tetanus. Last year there were 1,332 first doses and boosters administered.

“I heard through a neighbor about the health post,” Dieuvela said through translation. “I come because it is good for my health. It is important to me.”

Maternal and newborn tetanus (MNT) is an extremely deadly disease, but can be prevented through immunization, proper cord care, and hygienic birthing practices. Without care and immunizations, tetanus has a 100 percent death rate. In Haiti 1.3 million women between the ages of 15 – 49 are at risk of contracting tetanus.

Maternal Tetanus
Women receiving the maternal tetanus shot at a health post in Deschappelles, Haiti

The World Health Organization effectively started initiative campaigns to eliminate maternal tetanus in 1999 with a goal year of reaching the goal by 2015. Thus far, 36 of highly affected countries have reached their goal to eliminate maternal tetanus. Haiti is not one of those countries. In fact, Haiti accounts for 50 percent of all maternal and newborn cases of tetanus in the Western Hemisphere.

Since 1999, 129.5 million expectant women have been immunized against tetanus. According to the WHO, MNT remains a major public health problem in 23 countries.

In 2013, Minister of Health of Haiti Florence D. Guillaume said during a vaccine drive in Port-au-Prince, “Vaccination has always been a priority for prevention and improving health and today we are reaffirming that commitment.”

Expectant women receiving tetanus vaccine in Deschappelles, Haiti.
Expectant women receiving tetanus vaccine in Deschappelles, Haiti.

In order to eliminate maternal tetanus, more women in remote areas need to be vaccinated. GAVI has committed to over $20 million dollars in vaccines and health systems strengthening through 2020. As of Feb 28, 2015, a little over $10 million has been disbursed.

 

Maternity Ward Observations: Midwifery Care in a Haitian Hospital

The sunny, steaming hot morning when I visited L’Hôpital Sainte-Thérèse in Hinche, Haiti, the maternity unit was overflowing with busy midwives checking charts and administering care, nurses-in-training in white and yellow uniforms obtaining requisite clinical hours, as well as a few obstetricians checking on patients. Of course, there were expectant mothers, mothers who had just given birth, and those who were being prepped to deliver their babies. Husbands and other family members milled about slowly, but deliberately, bringing food and water to their loved ones, or just sat on benches and waited.

In each of the maternity units – antenatal, postpartum, and labor and delivery – there was a bed for every woman. No expectant mother laid on the ground waiting for space. In fact, I even saw some empty beds. That is not always the case I was told. Some times of the month are busier than others, but each mother can be accommodated.

Some expectant mothers – many with swollen feet and ankles – walked around slowly outdoors in the sunlight angling for some type of momentary relief from the constant wave of contractions. Others laid in bed with worried eyes anticipating the incumbent pain they faced. When I visited labor and delivery, one mother’s screams were piercing and she wasn’t even pushing yet. Another woman was calm, smiled, and gave me a quick wave as I walked by despite her contractions. Midwives were attending to their care – calmly and respectfully.

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The Priceless Reaction of a Baby Being Vaccinated #Haiti

As I watched baby after baby receive the pentavalent (5-in-1) vaccine at a mobile health post put on by Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) in Haiti this week, their reactions were all the same. First, they were oblivious to what was going on. Then, they all felt a momentary prick of pain and the waterworks began.

Vaccinations Vaccinations vaccinations

Even though each of the babies experienced short-lived pain, they are now protected against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (thus replacing the former diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus vaccine), hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), which causes pneumonia and meningitis.

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