This week, CNN published a timely and informative article in light of the recent new addition to the British Royal Family. Like CNN and the rest of the world, we congratulate the people of Britain as they welcome their new baby prince into the world! At the same time, HAS also hopes to promote the article’s main point: complications in childbirth remain a serious threat to maternal health worldwide, particularly in the developing world. While the CNN article focuses on the experience of new and expectant mothers in African countries, the article’s descriptions closely parallel the realities surrounding childbirth and maternal health in Haiti. Women in developing countries face many challenges as they seek a healthy pregnancy and delivery, including long distances to the nearest healthcare facility, under-resourced or substandard facilities, and a lack of information about their own pre- and post-natal care needs.
Nearly sixty years after its founding, HAS remains dedicated to improving maternal health in the Lower Artibonite Valley. We have made great strides over the years in making childbirth safer and healthier, and now with over 1,000 prenatal consultations performed each month, virtually 100% of pregnant women in our service area will have at least one consultation with a skilled professional before they give birth. Just as important, these women can be referred to the hospital in the case of complications. At the main hospital, HAS specializes in high-risk pregnancies; tellingly, approximately 30% of deliveries at the hospital are done by Cesarean section, in order to prevent further serious complications or to save the lives of mother and baby.
Approximately 75% of all births, however, still occur at home. To make home births safer, HAS has trained approximately 280 traditional birth attendants to employ safe, sterile birthing techniques and to observe the warning signs of an emergency requiring referral to the hospital. Today, these birth attendants assist in over 150 home deliveries per month throughout our service area. And with 95% coverage for post-natal follow-up in our primary care service area, HAS aims to provide a true continuum of maternal healthcare to make the entire experience as safe as possible for mother and baby.
Sadly, the risk of dying in childbirth is still quite high in Haiti, just as it is in many developing countries around the world. For every 100,000 live births, 350 Haitian mothers will die in childbirth in Haiti; by comparison, only 21 mothers out of 100,000 in the United States will die. Although HAS is able to save hundreds of women and their children each year through its many efforts and programs, we still have much more to do to continue reducing the incidence of maternal mortality. We look forward to a future in which we can provide more community education about how to detect serious warning signs during pregnancy, as well as more advanced screening for complications in our remote clinics. We also hope to establish more birthing centers in remote areas of our service region, so all mothers will receive the care they need. Though achieving these goals will require significant additional resources, we are committed to improving the lives of women and families!