Pregnant in Haiti

1.19.10: How to help and why you should Care

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Julietter lies on the ground in a makeshift shelter as her chubby-cheeked, smiling toddler, Millicent, climbs all over her. Her beautiful round 7-months-pregnant belly is tilted to the side. Her denim skirt (not maternity wear) is open at the waist to make room for her growing baby. Her pillow, sheet and clothes are surprisingly clean considering the earthquake that has all but destroyed Haiti has decimated her home. On first glance, Julietter looks peaceful, like any mother having a rest and a cuddle with her toddler. A closer look however, tells the deeper story. She’s exhausted, worried, probably terrified and has no idea what will happen to her and her daughter next. For now, she has this little spot in the world. And that’s about all she’s got. Jullieter and Millicent live in downtown Leogane, 18 miles from Port au Prince, the epicenter of both the earthquake and the global relief efforts that will ensure their survival.

Here are the numbers:
· There are approximately 37,000 pregnant women among the earthquake-affected population of Haiti.
· At least 10,000 are due to deliver within a month.
· 1,500 of them will need care for life-threatening complications during delivery.
That begs the question of: where? Where will they have their babies when all the hospitals are demolished? When the makeshift clinics and MASH units sprouting up in parks and the airport are already overwhelmed with trauma patients? When the roads are impassible and the cars are crushed. When there aren’t enough supplies? When there’s no clean water or food? When there are no delivery supplies or medications to stop infection and hemorrhage? When there aren’t even any Kotex. What’s going to happen to these women?
I contacted my buddies at Care and what I found out made me feel surprisingly reassured and optimistic. Care has a long and extensive history of established health programs in Haiti and is a founding member of the Reproductive Health Response in Crisis (RHRC) Consortium. They’ve partnered with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in Haiti to help meet the urgent needs of pregnant and lactating women. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush recommended Care as an organization you can trust in their interview on Face The Nation.
Why Care? Because they were already established in Haiti before the disaster. Haitians already know them. They didn’t have to find their way to the epicenter after the earthquake. Care was already there. Care focuses on women and children because they know they’re historically pretty low on the totem pole in terms of health care priority. Haiti already had a horrible maternal death rate (670 women will die out of every 100,000) before the quake. With limited or no access to health facilities, pregnant women and babies are now at an even greater risk.
What’s going to happen to these women now? People like you are going to save them. You’ll reach into your purse, pull out your debit card and lend a life-saving hand to a sister you don’t know in Haiti. It’s easy. Donate money, even if it’s just a little, to well-established, highly-reputable organizations like Care and you’ll create miracles. Sure, everyone’s broke, but seriously, you could donate a little.
Here’s what $5 will do: One water purification tablet costs .34 cents and one high energy biscuit (daily calorie content 2,290) costs $1.00. Care is already handing these out and they’re especially targeting pregnant and lactating women. Your $5 will take care of one woman for about three days. If you donate $10 – you’ve fixed her up for a week. Maybe you think that won’t make much of a difference but let’s make this really personal: What if it were you on that sheet in Haiti? That biscuit and water would make a big difference to you. What if you were Julietter? That $5 might mean the difference between her surviving over the next few days and not; between Millicent having a mother and not. Still think it won’t make a difference? It makes a big difference to Julietter and Millicent.
What about breastfeeding mothers? That $5 means they’ll be able to feed their babies for the next three days because they’ll be hydrated and nourished enough to produce milk. Without water and food, their milk will dry up and that’s a death sentence to their baby. There is no formula to replace their breast milk. There is no clean water without donations. It’s essential that new mothers continue breastfeeding. Essential! Life and death! If they don’t breastfeed, their baby will starve. Your donation will save that baby’s life. You can afford to make a difference.
What else can you do? Ask everyone who is coming to your baby shower to donate $5 to a “Haiti fund.” Have a yard sale and sell the newborn car seat and clothes your child has outgrown. Have a bake sale. Get creative, keep it simple and help a sister out. Every little bit helps. We know you care.

Text "CARE" to 25383 to donate $10 to Haiti relief efforts.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to and it may be answered in a future blog post.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.

Photo: Courtesy of Evelyn Hockstein/