Friday, September 17, 2010

MGH midwives in Haiti

PROUD PARENT: In Haiti, a happy mother, right, is congratulated by Ferrari after giving birth to her first baby

alt="midwife in Haiti" />Even before the Jan. 12 earthquake, which further compromised the health of pregnant Haitian women and their children, the country already had the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere. To raise awareness about the state of maternal and infant health in Haiti and share her experiences there, Angela Ferrari, CNM, MS, of the MGH Vincent Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, presented "Rebuilding Birth in Haiti" Sept. 9 in the Haber Conference Room.


Ferrari deployed to Haiti from April 5 to 17 through Project HOPE, one of the relief organizations with which the MGH partnered to offer support in Haiti following the earthquake. She is one of several MGH midwives who volunteered or will volunteer in Haiti. Amy Kogut, CNM, MSN, also volunteered May 8 to 23, and two additional midwives are expected to deploy in October.

Ferrari began her presentation by describing the state of maternal and infant health in Haiti and factors contributing to the issue, including widespread poverty, inadequate infrastructure and a weak health care system. Only 26 percent of all births in Haiti are attended by qualified persons. To make matters worse, the earthquake destroyed one of the three nursing schools in Haiti that trained candidates eligible to attend the country's only nurse midwifery program.

Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) in Deschapelles, Haiti, where Ferrari worked during her deployment, is one location severely affected by the skilled birth attendant shortage. But efforts to improve care there and elsewhere in Haiti are ongoing. Ferrari discussed how she helped train HAS nurses in addition to caring for patients. She also shared some of the challenges she encountered in Haiti, such as limited access to resuscitation equipment.

"Prior to the earthquake, there were serious efforts underway to improve maternal and infant health by improving midwifery education and increasing the number of midwives," says Ferrari. "The earthquake was a devastating setback -- however, steps are being taken to get maternal and infant health back on track."

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