When I decided to concentrate on global health in 2011 and started Social Good Moms I learned immediately about Dr. Paul Farmer and the nonprofit he co-founded, Partners in Health. It is absolutely impossible to miss the immense contributions he made to the disciplines of global health, health inequality, and human rights for others to admire and aspire to, including me. He is the reason I decided to go to Haiti on my own to see the work other NGOs and nonprofit hospitals were doing for Haiti’s poor.Continue reading “Thoughts on the Passing of Dr. Paul Farmer”
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).
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.
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 … Continue reading [Photos] Haiti Works Toward Eliminating Maternal Tetanus
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.
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.
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.
Junior Exantus is a health agent for Hôpital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti. He has been a health agent for three years.
“I wanted to enter the field to help the community,” said Exantus through translation. “I saw a lot of illnesses in the community.”
This week I am traveling around Haiti reporting on global health issues that affect women and children. In fact, I am writing this post in the back of a SUV with my fixer and translator headed south of Port-au-Prince to visit Social Good Moms’ partner, Midwives for Haiti.
In the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere there are still many challenges that persist in both maternal and child health in Haiti. While malaria cases are relatively in check across the nation there were 15 confirmed cases of Dengue fever in Deschappelles over the past two weeks — all children!
Yesterday I was in Deschappelles, Haiti about three hours north of Port-au-Prince. Deschappelles is where the largest regional hospital, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, is and has been for nearly 60 years. It serves a population of 350,000 and routinely takes in patients from outside of the region.
In addition to hospital services Hôpital Albert Schweitzer also arranges and manages 280 mobile health posts conducted by health agents every month throughout the mountainous region. I attended one of those health posts on Monday during World Immunization Week to see babies and expectant women receive their vaccinations.
Below are photos from the day. Babies received oral polio and the pentavalent vaccine. The pentavalent vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) which causes pneumonia and meningitis, was first introduced in Haiti in 2013. Expectant mothers received the tetanus vaccine.
About 25 mothers showed up yesterday for their monthly health post visit as well as four expectant mothers who accompanied their children.