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WomenStrong-Funded Surgical Suite In Northern Haiti Performs First Emergency Cesarean Delivery

Borgne, Haiti (September 7, 2016)

A surgical suite built by WomenStrong International to perform emergency deliveries in a remote, mountainous region of northern Haiti has begun delivering babies and saving lives. It is the first time C-sections have been available to expectant mothers in a commune of 80,000 people across a 100-mile area.

WomenStrong International is a consortium of non-profit organizations in five nations supporting women-driven solutions to extreme urban poverty. Its Consortium member in Haiti, H.O.P.E. , has been working for 20 years in the northernmost commune of Borgne to meet community needs for healthcare, clean water, economic development and education.

In partnership with Haiti’s Ministry of Health and others, H.O.P.E. runs a healthcare system that includes a hospital and network of mobile clinics to care for people living in remote mountain villages accessible only by primitive footpaths.

WomenStrong’s support enabled the creation of Mobile Women’s Health Clinics and a maternal and neonatal wing at the Alyans Sante Borgne Hospital. Combined with additional private donations, WomenStrong’s support also enabled construction of the $100,000 operating and delivery suite equipment for the facility, the area’s first blood bank and salaries to bring in an obstetrician, an anesthesiologist and a bloodbank expert, all Cuban-trained. The investment in the hospital prompted Haiti’s Ministry of Health to join forces with H.O.P.E. to contribute equipment for the blood bank and training for Haitian technicians to run it, as well as support for a Haitian surgical resident assigned to the unit.

“Our relatively small investment, less than $1 per resident of the commune, encouraged partnerships that leveraged the funding and vastly improved what had been a deadly situation for pregnant women in northern Haiti,” said Dr. Susan M. Blaustein, Founder and Executive Director of WomenStrong International. “This work demonstrates an efficient mobilization of resources that shortens the journey to care and increases safe childbirth and maternal survival.”

The first woman to deliver in the new facility is typical of women in the region who come down from mountain villages to deliver in Borgne. Even in labor, they must travel on foot along steep, unpaved paths, sometimes for hours, to reach the hospital. Previously, those needing an emergency cesarean would then need to travel another two hours over rutted roads to reach the nearest operating theater.

Twenty-three-year old Lousena Thalès arrived at the hospital in critical condition, requiring emergency care for a uterine rupture. Without urgent medical care, the rupture would have led to fatal hemorrhaging and the potential loss of her child. Instead, in the new facility, she delivered a healthy son and survived.

“Nothing is greater than what this mother feels and nothing is more precious than life,” said Dr. Thony Michelet Voltaire, Medical Director for Alyans Sante Borgne Hospital and H.O.P.E.’s healthcare network. “The entire surgical team feels a sense of honor and pride at a job well done, and for the community this facility offers hope for the future.”

The medical team on the first delivery included obstetrical surgeon Dr. Flora C. Rodriguez, surgeon Dr. Felix Rodriguez, nurse anesthesiologist Carlos Gonzalez, nurse Luciana Metelus, assisting surgeon Dr. Kendy Jean and blood bank technologist Clarisbel Brizuela.

The sterile surgical suite was constructed according to the highest standards, but also took into account the limited resources available in Borgne. WomenStrong is developing a special expertise in the creation of maternal and neonatal medical safety nets in low-resource areas, putting the mother at the center of newborn care.

In Kumasi, Ghana, WomenStrong has supported the creation of two innovative neonatal centers (https://www.womenstrong.org/news/6-ghana-government-plans-to-scale-low-tech-neonatal-centers) for babies at risk that is now serving as a model for the development of similar centers throughout the country. In India, WomenStrong supports the [screening] and treatment of pregnant and adolescent women for anemia, to give mothers and newborns their best shot at survival. In Haiti, the role of the new mother is at the center of care in maternity ward, supplementing scarce medical staff and costly equipment.

“This new facility is a first for the rural north and a game changer for the region in terms of improving maternal and newborn health and survival,” said Dr. Ernst Jasmin, Director of the Haitian Ministry of Health, Northern Department.

Media Contact

Dr. Susan M. Blaustein

Founder and Executive Director

SBlaustein[at]womenstrong.org

About WomenStrong International

WomenStrong International is a global community of organizations working with women and girls to end extreme urban poverty. We start and end by listening to urban women and girls, who know best what they need, in order to thrive. WomenStrong finds, funds, nurtures, and shares women-driven solutions that can transform lives. Learn More