It is difficult to believe how much Haiti is suffering. Not only was its president assassinated a little over a month ago, but a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit last weekend with a death toll now of over 1400. And, if that is not enough, a tropical storm is quickly barreling its way towards the island where mudslides will inevitably cause additional deaths, injuries, and property damage. This is all amid an interim government that has not gotten its bearings after President
I had the privilege of visiting Haiti once. That was five years after the devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed 200,000 and injured 300,000. Even after five years I could clearly see where buildings had not been rebuilt and rubble was still bulldozed into corners across Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.
Then, I went to see the work of Midwives for Haiti whose dedication to quality maternity care in the poorest country in the western hemisphere I admire greatly. While Midwives for Haiti was not immediately affected by the earthquake, there will undoubtedly be an increased need for its help in the region because as its Executive Director, Jane Drichta, said in her most recent newsletter, “Haiti is a small nation and what affects one, affects all.”
It is no surprise that the world needs more health workers. In fact, even though there are currently 22 million nurses and 2 million midwives globally there is an urgent need for 18 million more health workers in order to reach universal health care coverage by 2030 according to the World Health Organization.
There is a particular need for 9 million nurses and midwives as they are critical components to a robust health system and are often on the front lines of general and critical care including:
Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases
Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of noncommunicable diseases
Sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning, and maternal and newborn health care, including immunization and breastfeeding support.
The United Nations has designated Sierra Leone as the most dangerous place to have a baby. In fact, it has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world at 1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births. On average, most women have at least six babies in Sierra Leone.
In a previous post I mentioned the Aminata Maternal Foundation that helps pregnant women in Sierra Leone. An Australian organization, it was started by a woman, Aminata Conteh-Biger, who became a sex slave during the Liberian Civil War. Now, she is giving back to expectant mothers after so many years away from her home country.
This video shows the work of the Aminata Maternal Foundation and how it oftentimes becomes difficult for young pregnant girls to receive permission from family and elders to deliver in a hospital or health center. It also shows the frustration of healthcare workers who try to teach entire villages about the importance of proper maternal healthcare.
Maternal mortality continues to be a major problem the world over. The United States is the only developed country where maternal death rates are increasing especially for non-Hispanic black women. And in low-and-middle income countries, approximately 830 women die each day from pregnancy-related, preventable causes.
Maternal health organizations are working diligently to save more mothers’ lives, but one death is still too many especially when it is likely preventable. I like to list organizations that you can support with donations in order to help them keep more women and their children alive on the local level and make sure mothers are a part of their families’ lives.
This list highlights local organizations that help some of the most vulnerable communities in countries with some of the highest maternal mortality rates. And, in the cases of the United States and Australia, the organizations help the communities that experience the most maternal deaths. Each site allows direct donations that go directly to maternal care and/or advocacy.
Women in low-and-middle-income countries need clean birth kits in order to stave off deadly infections in themselves and their newborns. This is the case not only during home births with midwives but also in institutionalized settings.
Zubaida Bai, founder of Ayzh, a social enterprise that creates clean, safe birthing kits for women as well as reproductive, newborn and adolescent kits, discusses how she included women’s voices in the development of clean birthing kits.
I am convinced that in order for maternal health interventions to work anywhere in the world, women must be consulted first as opposed to NGOs and charities developing products for women without their input. Bai expresses this brilliantly in this recent TED talk.