Maternal and Child Health in HaitiSince the earthquake that shook the small country of Haiti in 2010, minimal research has been done that concerns maternal and child health in Haiti. Haiti has the highest infant and maternal mortality rate in the western hemisphere, with the infant mortality rate at 48.2 per 1,000 lives births and the maternal mortality rate at 359 per 10,000 live births. Only 34.5 percent of women in Haiti use any form of contraceptive.

Crushing poverty, poor health infrastructure and frequent natural disasters are some of the causes of the poor situation for maternal and child health in Haiti. Many people are still displaced from the 2010 earthquake. Women have a one in 80 chance of dying due to pregnancy and childbirth, and about 50 percent of the population has no access to basic health services at all.

The first study conducted by the NIH after the earthquake that looked at maternal and child health in Haiti and includes opinions of Haitian women and healthcare workers (HCWs) was conducted in 2015. This study found that Haiti was staffed with only 2.8 HCWs per 1,000 inhabitants, and only 1.8 nurses and one physician per 10,000 inhabitants.

The study outlined six major strategies for improving maternal and child health in Haiti:

  1. Create a nurse-midwife program offering post-graduate certification for nurses.
  2. Develop and implement maternal and child health training that focuses on morbidity and mortality prevention and is specifically designed for lay birth attendants.
  3. Implement training for HCWs in obstetric and pediatric complications.
  4. Develop relationships between lay birth attendants and nurse-midwives to work collaboratively.
  5. Implement breastfeeding training programs for HCWs and mothers to increase exclusive breastfeeding to decrease infant diarrhea and malnutrition.
  6. Develop women’s health programs to prevent intimate partner violence and increase condom use to prevent HIV.

The U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) has been working with the health ministry and other partners on improving these issues on the ground by supporting “smile clinics.” Smile clinics are maternity hospitals and clinics that provide basic but life-saving emergency obstetric and neonatal care. They are among the most active clinics in the country and also offer family planning services, programs to combat gender-based violence and HIV treatment services.

Haiti has seen a 43 percent decrease in maternal mortality since 1990, and infant mortality is falling by three percent annually, but there is still more to be done. Because only 10 percent of midwifery needs are currently being met, UNFPA supported the construction of a new earthquake-resistant National Midwifery School after the previous one was flattened.

UNICEF is another organization working to improve conditions for maternal and child health in Haiti. UNICEF opened a clinic in 2012 in Marigot, a rural area with little access to health services. In addition to Basic Emergency Obstetric Care (BEmOC), the clinic provides training for matrons, traditional Haitian birth attendants who usually do not have any training. Most matrons use traditional childbirth practices that are passed down through generations. Transportation to clinics can be very difficult, and Haitians often trust and prefer local matrons to professionally trained midwives. For this reason, the clinic in Marigot emphasizes training matrons in basic obstetric care.

USAID’s Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP) is another agency working to improve maternal and child health in Haiti. Beginning in April 2014, MCSP has been working in Haiti with Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths (EPCMD) and Services de Sante de Qualite pour Haïti-Nord (SSQH-Nord) to provide technical assistance directly to the Ministry of Health in policies, guidelines and protocols in line with global standards.

In the project’s first year, it opened three National Training Centers with 19 staff trained as trainers in Maternal and Newborn Health skills standardization and high-impact interventions. MCSP also mapped and profiled 36 civil society organizations engaged in community health. The project will continue through September 2017.

With efforts such as these, maternal and child health in Haiti is sure to continue improving in the future.

Phoebe Cohen

Photo: Google

Contraception Reduces Poverty
Overpopulation is a growing concern for both developed and developing countries alike. The rate at which the global population is increasing is alarming. While it took thousands of years to reach the world’s first billion people in 1804, it only took 123 years to add another billion and only 12 for the most recent billion. It is imperative to curb population growth now to prevent the spread of global poverty due to overpopulation. This solution should be as efficient as it is effective. Contraception reduces poverty, and it also ensures a more resourceful future that better meets the needs of the world’s population.

Here are three facts about the relationship between contraception and poverty reduction:

  1. If women who currently lack the means to sexual health information, as well as proper contraception, were allowed access to these reproductive tools, an estimated 35 million abortions and 76,000 maternal deaths would be prevented each year. Given that abortions far exceed the price of standard birth control, these women could instead spend this money to provide for their families and improve their quality of life. Saving women from premature death from unwanted pregnancy due to a lack of reproductive education and resources is not only beneficial in regard to humanitarian measures, but it also strengthens the economic security of the household.
  2. More people being integrated into the workforce, followed by a decrease in the number of dependents, provides a boost to economies worldwide. Populations dense with working-age individuals often live in more developed countries given the surplus of people contributing to the respective economy. Contraception reduces poverty in this sector because adults who either choose not to have children or delay the rate at which they have children have more time and resources to earn better-living potentials when compared to those who must use their income to provide for their families.
  3. While education and international aid offer clear benefits in the fight against poverty, the growth of an excessive population counters these measures. Given the current population’s exponential growth, the economies and civil services of developing countries already lack the capacity or resources to provide for the influx of people to come. The ways in which global poverty is combatted today may no longer be effective in the future if contraception is not accessible.

Family planning means more than just preventing unwanted pregnancies. According to the former executive director of the UN Population Fund, the late Babtunde Osotimehin, “It is a most significant investment to promote human capital development, combat poverty and harness a demographic dividend, thus contributing to equitable and sustainable economic development.” Funding family programming can ensure that contraception reduces poverty, and it will remain effective for generations to come. Additionally, it will help the planet utilize its limited resources more effectively.

Kaitlin Hocker

Photo: Flickr


For mothers-to-be, few things are scarier than not knowing where they will have their baby. During wars and conflicts like those in Yemen, Sudan and Nigeria, people flee and become refugees. Some of those leaving are pregnant women. Despite being displaced persons, they still need the same care during their pregnancies and deliveries; however, many times refugee camps are unsanitary and have few medical staff with limited supplies. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and USAID work together to bring proper medical care to pregnant refugee women in Nigeria who have fled from Boko Haram.

The goal is to provide safe, clean, dignifying births to mothers. USAID sent UNFPA birth kits from Deluxe Childbirth Services to be handed out to mothers and potential mothers. This ensures that no matter where a woman ends up giving birth, she will have with her the items necessary for safe delivery. Included in the kit are a delivery mat, three infant diapers, antibacterial soap, methylated spirits, five pieces of gauze, cotton wool, an infant cord clamp, a scalpel and mucus extractor. USAID is also providing funding for training skilled delivery nurses in refugee camps and areas. Upon delivery, mothers receive baby packs with clothes and items that newborns need.

The goal of the packs is to provide the tools for doctors and nurses to deliver a baby in resource-limited areas as well as necessary sanitation items to prevent infection. Infections and lack of proper tools are the leading cause of maternal deaths in developing countries.

It is expected that there will be 60,000 births by displaced women in Nigeria alone this year. That means already limited resources will be taxed. The birth kits are a welcomed item in refugee camps because it means more women can have a safe and healthy delivery.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: Premium Times, news24
Photo: Premium Times

Over five million Colombians have been displaced since the nation’s armed conflict began over 50 years ago. Of this figure, two million Colombians under the age of 26 have been displaced between the years 1985 and 2013. The Colombian government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) have been in peace talks since November 2012. In order to move toward progress and peace, the relationship between the Colombian government and its citizens must incorporate youth inclusion.

In February 2015, the FARC announced that it would discharge soldiers under 15 years of age.

The FARC, criminal gangs, and other organized crime groups have forced young adults to participate in the conflict. Lack of education and employment opportunities, combined with high poverty and conflict, create a space where joining organized crime is the logical choice for protection and wealth. For this reason, focusing on youth inclusion as a sustainable peace model is exigent.

Unfortunately, it was released in March 2015 that youth unemployment (14 to 28 years) is at 15 percent in Colombia. It has stayed steadily around this figure for one year.

National and local government efforts have tried to reintegrate adolescents who were involved with the FARC. For example, the Colombia Youth department is a space for young adults to be involved with public policy and dialogue within the national government. On Colombia Joven’s website, the department highlights its values as: honesty, respect, responsibility, compromise, loyalty, tolerance and solidarity. All form the idea of ensuring youth participation.

As a way to encourage youth inclusion for those who were displaced or involved with the conflict, young victims of the conflict in the department of Meta (located in the middle of Colombia) have come together to create the Department Youth Roundtable (comprised of 5,000 members) from 29 municipalities in the department. The organized meetings are for professional and educational development.

The Meta department created the Intergenerational Youth Public Policy initiative in 2010 (supported by numerous organizations including USAID and UN Population Fund) in order to improve youth socio-political conditions by the year 2019. This organization was governmentally spearheaded from the Public Policy for Youth organization under the Department Youth Roundtable. In its published report, “Meta: Vivir al Derecho,” it discusses youth vulnerability and potential to engage in illegal activities. The goal is to create conditions that guarantee life, integral human development, adequate educational inclusion, work, and civic and socio-cultural development in the department of Meta.

Colombia is making clear strides to acknowledge the importance of including youth, but the lagging youth unemployment rate form challenges for the future of the state. Despite these advancements, it is difficult to implement outreach policies to reintegrate ex-child soldiers because of their experiences. Some feel marginalized and continue to seek illegal activities as a living. The surging organized crime network known as BACRIM is comprised of new offenders and demobilized militia members. This poses as a major threat to the security of the state and the future of the young adult population.

Nevertheless, displaced youth and other victims of the conflict have demonstrated resilience through their formation of regional youth development projects. Based on these efforts and others, youth inclusion strategies are occurring at a productive triangular process, from the grassroots level, department/municipal level and the national government level. In this way, sustainable peace may be attained.

– Courteney Leinonen

Sources: BBC 1, BBC 2, Colombia Joven 1, Colombia Joven 2, Juntos Construyendo, OECD, UNFPA
Photo: Flickr

Child Brides Fight Back - The Borgen Project
In recent years, a number of young women have rebelled against the husbands they were forced to marry. In April, a 14-year-old in Kano, Nigeria, murdered her 35-year-old husband with rat poison at their wedding celebration. Another, Zeinabou Moussa, ran away from her husband’s home on at least four separate occasions. After a final incident, her husband divorced her. Her parents say she will not be forced to marry again.

Zeinabou is one girl of many millions who are forced to marry early and become a child bride. In West Africa, around half of girls under the age of 18 are forced to marry. In regions of Chad and Niger, that number is around 70 percent. Girls under 15 in these countries are more likely to be wed than anywhere else in the world.

There are a number of reasons practices like this are kept in place. The first is poor education. Parents will often send their young boys to school because a higher value is placed on men. Many of the families who send their daughters to be child brides are often very poor and can expect that they will get a dowry in return from these educated men. Additionally, parents do not feel that it is appropriate for their daughters to engage in promiscuous activity out of wedlock, which is another reason early marriage is so prominent.

The practice is part of a vicious cycle. Adolescence, as well as education, is cut short, and this leads to an increase in teenage pregnancy and deaths during births. The spread of HIV is also adding to the problem.

Although there is some rebellion beginning against this tradition, many are not optimistic about the outcome. The Ford Foundation from New York conducted a study that showed that, on the whole, the trend in West African countries is headed toward even younger child brides.

Still, small pockets of land are getting better. In Nigeria and Niger, girls are learning about the potential risks of early marriage in special schools provided by the U.N. Population Fund. By the year 2018, over 150,000 girls will have completed this education.

The battle against child marriage is also being fought on the legal front. In countries like Malawi, girls can be forced to wed as young as 15 if they have their parents’ consent; however, upcoming legislation will attempt to bump it to 18, the legal age of consent in the country.

Such laws will play a big role in curbing the rising number of child brides, and all of the complications that accompany early marriages. The laws are prompting traditional chiefs to speak out against these marriages. Regarded for their community influence, these chiefs can spur campaigns that give girls the power to say “no.”

– Andrew Rywak

Sources: New York Daily News New York Times, The Economist
Photo: Girls Not Brides

There are currently 222 million women around the world that lack access to contraception. The Global Poverty Project and Women Deliver have joined forces to create a new family planning initiative called It Takes Two to change that. The program seeks to increase the availability of family planning services around the world. Coming to fruition after last year’s Summit on Family Planning in London (which pledged $2.6 billion to help solve the family planning deficiencies in 120 developing countries) and the recent Women Deliver Global Conference in Malaysia, It Takes Two will work primarily by rewarding activism and advocacy.

Participants, through the Global Poverty Project’s mobile platform, will be able to win free contraception, and even design their own condom wrappers. According to Jill Sheffield, the founder and current president of Women Deliver, the It Takes Two program’s main goal is to inspire men and women to demand more access to family planning from their governments.

Though spear-headed by Women Deliver and the Global Poverty Project, other organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, the United Nations Population Fund, and many more are working together to support the program. The initiative is planned to take three years and is now available in the United States and Uganda.

The organization has a well-known ally in this effort. Ambassador to the program and Victoria’s Secret supermodel Erin Heatherton has said that the global lack of contraception is “one of the world’s most pressing issues.” Heatherton has also been a Victoria’s Secret Angel since 2008 and is an advocate who supports that family planning is pertinent to both men and women worldwide, going on to say that “Everyone should have the option to plan a family, and their choices shouldn’t be limited because of their socio-economic level or country of residence.”

– Samantha Mauney
Source: Artist Direct, Sun Times
Photo: Retro Fashion