Childbirth remains a dangerous challenge for women
By Jennifer Browning
The Project Medishare SUV sped and bumped along the uneven dirt road in the Central Plateau. In the back of the vehicle, Chanté lies uncomfortably in labor. The Medishare staff is taking the young woman so that she may give birth at the nearest hospital in Hinche-one hour away. Suddenly, a staff member yells out to the driver to stop. Their patient isn’t going to be able to wait until Hinche, Chanté is ready to give birth right now.
Haiti, and particularly in the Central Plateau, the high rate of maternal mortality remains a challenge. Haiti’s statistics regarding maternal mortality are among the highest in the Caribbean: 1 out of every 37 female deaths is linked to a high-risk pregnancy.
In a recent Associate Press article, Johnathan Katz reports that Haiti’s poor suffers by far the highest maternal mortality ratio in the Western Hemisphere. According to a recent UNICEF report, out of 100,000 live births, 670 Haitian women died of pregnancy-related causes in 2006.
In 2006 the Haitian Ministry of Health reported that nationally 76 to 80 percent of deliveries take place in homes and nationally a professional or a skilled midwife attends 60 percent of deliveries. In the Central Department only 13 percent of deliveries are performed in a hospital, clinic or maternity ward, while only 47 percent of deliveries are performed by a professional or a skilled birth attendant in a patient’s home.
Through Project Medishare’s community health program each woman in Haiti’s Central Plateau receives an opportunity to have at least one prenatal visit before giving birth. Prenatal check-ups with a health professional are steadily increasing, with 85 percent coverage of pregnant women, in contrast to 67.7 percent coverage in 1995.
Project Medishare is working toward decreasing the maternal mortality rate in Haiti’s Central Plateau with a new maternity ward in Marmont. Thanks to the Greig Family construction for the the Maternal Health Center broke ground in January.
Currently there is only one hospital with an obstetrician available to serve five towns in the upper Central Plateau: Hinche, Thomonde, Maissade, Thomassique, Cerca LaSource, and Cerca Carvajal. While the clinic in Marmont does offer maternal services such as family planning along with prenatal and postnatal visits, the clinic does not have the facilities for deliveries. All high-risk pregnancies are referred to the hospital in Hinche or Thomonde where there is a small delivery room with a trained midwife.
Chanté’s situation is a perfect example for the need for a maternity ward in Marmont. While Chanté’s preganancy was not high-risk and Project Medishare’s staff was available to assist in the delivery, many women aren’t as lucky.
Upon its completion, the new Maternal Health Center in Marmont will be open full time with trained staff available and living in the connecting residence. The Maternal Health Center in Marmont will also focus on providing a full package of women’s health services including reproductive health education, family planning, along with HIV/AIDS counseling and testing.