Cross Post Birth Around the World: Mother Health International in Haiti

This post is cross-posted from Stand and Deliver, blog of Rixa Freeze, PhD., an LDS mother of 2 (and one on the way) who blogs about childbirth and maternity care. Her blog was recently named one of the Top 10 Pregnancy and Birth Blogs of 2010 by Babble Magazine.

On the anniversary of the terrible earthquake in Haiti that took so many lives, I want to highlight a non-profit organization dedicated to improving maternal and child health in Haiti. Mother Health International was founded a year ago today to “respond and provide relief to pregnant women and children in areas of disaster and extreme poverty.” It is run by a volunteer medical advisory board of CNMs, CPMs, OBs, and NDs.

Mother and baby at MHI

From the MHI mission statement:

We are committed to reducing the maternal and infant mortality rates by creating healthy, sustainable holistic birth clinics using the midwifery model of care with culturally appropriate, education for the health and empowerment of women. With every healthy birth there is a positive benefit for the communities that we serve and the world as a whole. Our ultimate mission is to empower and educate the local clinic staff, with gender equality, to become the health care providers for their community.

I wrote to Heather L. Maurer, Co-Founder and Executive Director, for more information about her organization. Here is a brief history of MHI:

Located in the country’s southern coast, Jacmel suffered extensive causalities as well as was left littered with crumbled buildings and destruction after the January 12, 7.0 earth quake. MHI founding members were part of a first responder team of seven medics, midwives and support staff, originally affiliated with Bumi Sehat International Foundation, who traveled to Jacmel, Haiti on January 28, 2010 via Santa Domingo, DR to offer disaster relief to women and children. With the help from private donations, NGO’s, nonprofit organizations and government organizations, the team was able to provide emergency medical aid, water and food to the women and children who survived the earthquake.

Shortly after arriving in Jacmel, the founders of MHI recognized the greater need beyond disaster and emergency aid and began the process to build a holistic birth clinic in the heart of one of the most under served areas in Jacmel, St. Helen Parish. On March 10, MHI officially opened our doors to pregnant women and started prenatal evaluations. A few weeks after the opening of the birth clinic, the first baby boy was born into the hands of a volunteer midwife, peacefully and healthy. Today over 400 babies have been born at our birth center and thousands of women have received prenatal visits. Midwives and OB/GYN’s come from around the world volunteer their time in the birth clinic. Our birth attendants are skilled at gentle birthing techniques intended to offer women a place of dignity in which to give birth, reduce pain, decrease interventions and cesarean sections. Our model of care incorporates traditional holistic midwifery care while respecting and embracing Haitian culture and customs.

Our plans are to build permanent structures to serve as our birth clinic and we are searching for a sponsor/donor. We are in immediate need for this as the demands are growing.

Mother Health International’s birth clinic in Jacmel has seen over 425 births since its opening in March 2010. It is housed in a 44-foot diameter (1,500 square feet) dome from Pacific Domes. The birth center has 9 beds.

Interior of dome
Dome at night

I love reading the employees’ and volunteers’ stories of their time at MHI. To keep this post from running too long, I won’t repost them all here. Please take the time to visit these links–I think you’ll find them as inspiring as I have:

For a feel of what it’s like to give birth at the MHI clinic, read Imaccula’s birth story or the story of MHI’s first set of twins. You can learn more about MHI at their website, blog, and Facebook page.

Eloufeine traveled 2 hours to birth at the MHI clinic.

If you like what MHI is doing, please consider donating to help keep the clinic operating. All money donated to MHI goes directly to maintain and sustain the birth clinic in Haiti; board members and directors work on a volunteer basis.

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