COHI today released the results of a landmark assessment of the reproductive health needs of women in Fond Parisien, Haiti, a region about thirty miles west of Port au Prince.
Results from the report revealed a stunning 47% of pregnant women had not gone for one or more visits for prenatal care, making them nearly 5 times less likely to be taking prenatal vitamins for their pregnancy - a critically important intervention that prevents folate and iron deficiencies, and helps ensure healthy newborns. In addition, half of all reported live births had no skilled birth attendant present.
“With the results from this survey, COHI has already started to address some of the needs previously unknown to organizations working in the area,” said Leilani Johnson, M.P.H., Executive Director of COHI.
Additionally, 80% of women aged 15-39 desired family planning services, with more than half of respondents desiring injectable family planning methods. This highlights the importance of ensuring access to reliable, inexpensive, and safe family planning options.
90% of women also feel that gender based violence is a serious problem in their community; however, perhaps due to social stigma, only 8% admitted to ever experiencing any act of violence, a finding congruent with a UN study on reporting of gender based violence. Reporting was highest amongst the youngest age group (15-24 year olds).
“In such unstable economic conditions, women are often disproportionately affected by poor health outcomes,” said Leilani Johnson. “Compounding the effects of poverty and low social status, the disaster experienced throughout Haiti further threatened the lives of women, who were already in precarious situations, by cutting off resources and isolating them from necessary reproductive health care,” added Johnson.
Haiti is not only the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, it also has the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality in this region. Poor access to skilled birth attendants, lack of education about the importance of prenatal care, incurred costs, and lack of transportation all contribute to these astonishing statistics. Since the earthquake, the population of Fond Parisien has increased by nearly 20%, putting even more of a burden on already stressed health care facilities.
“It’s hard to think that all of this is happening just two hours away from Miami by plane” says Dr. Siobhan McNally, Chair of COHI’s Board of Directors and a pediatrician who volunteered with COHI after the earthquake in Haiti.
Prior to COHI’s provision of two full-time midwives at the CPT clinic, Fond Parisien did not have specialized services dedicated to women’s health. This midwifery service, initiated and sponsored by COHI, is the first of its kind in the region.
Between the 18th and 20th of October, COHI administered an in-depth questionnaire to 421 women and held two focus groups on a range of topics regarding fertility, prenatal care, family planning usage and need, food and water security, and gender based violence.
Given the results of the report, COHI is focusing efforts on three important fields: responding to family planning needs of both women and men, leading initiatives towards the prevention of gender based violence amongst youth, men, and women, and increasing awareness and availability of services surrounding prenatal and women’s health services.
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Circle of Health International (COHIntl.org) is an organization dedicated to working with women and their communities in times of crisis and disaster to ensure access to quality reproductive, maternal, and newborn care. Since 2004, COHI has afforded countless women in distressed situations with access to maternal health care services in several areas around the world including Haiti, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tibet, Louisiana, The Middle East, and Sudan.