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The Big Question: In Haiti, where to start?
March 6, 2010  |  by Catherine Pierre
“Nothing’s going to stick in terms of the massive relief effort unless we really put the Haitians front and center and build their capacity in the process. We know that 63,000 women were likely pregnant in the quake-affected zones. Of those, you’ve got 7,000 who would give birth in the first month after the quake, and 15 percent of those are going to have life-threatening complications. Part of what changes, in the aftermath, is this stark light that pregnant women and newborns are in—women giving birth in the street, the lack of skilled birth attendants, the lack of knowledge about what to do for birth complications.
“Before the quake, Jhpiego was focused on helping to complete policies and guidelines essential for bringing services closer to women. Now it allows us to do that in a reactivation-of-services mode. We can put into practice some of the low-cost, high-impact interventions we know reduce mortality.
“It would be demoralizing to go back to the status quo because Haiti has the worst health indicators in the hemisphere. With the influx of resources and assistance, you can set a tone of, ‘You know what, let’s do things in a way where we’re not going to have as many failures, we’re going to be more effective.’ The attention on Haiti can serve as a motivating factor. Haitians are a proud people. They have a spirit of survival. It gives the Haitians an opportunity to show what they can do.”

Rich Lamporte led a Jhpiego team to Haiti in the aftermath of January’s devastating earthquake. He is shown here with Edeline, who is recovering from her injuries in a Croix des Bouquets public clinic. For more of their story, visit blog.jhpiego.org. Jhpiego is a Johns Hopkins affiliate working to improve the health of women and children in limited-resources settings.

Q: In Haiti, where to start?

A: “Nothing’s going to stick in terms of the massive relief effort unless we really put the Haitians front and center and build their capacity in the process. We know that 63,000 women were likely pregnant in the quake-affected zones. Of those, you’ve got 7,000 who would give birth in the first month after the quake, and 15 percent of those are going to have life-threatening complications. Part of what changes, in the aftermath, is this stark light that pregnant women and newborns are in—women giving birth in the street, the lack of skilled birth attendants, the lack of knowledge about what to do for birth complications.

“Before the quake, Jhpiego was focused on helping to complete policies and guidelines essential for bringing services closer to women. Now it allows us to do that in a reactivation-of-services mode. We can put into practice some of the low-cost, high-impact interventions we know reduce mortality.

“It would be demoralizing to go back to the status quo because Haiti has the worst health indicators in the hemisphere. With the influx of resources and assistance, you can set a tone of, ‘You know what, let’s do things in a way where we’re not going to have as many failures, we’re going to be more effective.’ The attention on Haiti can serve as a motivating factor. Haitians are a proud people. They have a spirit of survival. It gives the Haitians an opportunity to show what they can do.”


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