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Help that is making a big difference

Canada is helping women and children in Haiti access health services. To make this possible, health care professionals need more training and health care needs to be affordable.

Rostania Augustin gave birth on May 27, 2013 at the Fort-Liberté hospital, when she was six and one half months pregnant.

Childbirth... few acts are as anticipated…or as dreaded. This is especially true if you are a pregnant woman living in Haiti. There is little likelihood that you will have access to quality hospital services during your pregnancy. In fact, barely 3% of Haitians have private insurance coverage, and births attended by qualified personnel are estimated at 25%. It therefore comes as no surprise that the mortality rates for mothers, infants and children under the age of five are among the world’s highest.

Not surprisingly, Haiti is seeking to rectify this situation. To this end, it has developed a national health policy guaranteeing universal, free access to specific services and care for vulnerable groups.

Canada is among the countries that support Haiti in the pursuit of this objective. It has done so through projects such as Maman Ak timoun an Sante (MATS, which means “healthy mothers and children” in Creole, Haiti’s national language).

Implemented by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in 2011, this initiative was essentially aimed at making health services accessible to women and children by removing financial barriers and improving the quality of the services.

Contributing funds and compassion

In less than two years, the 17 hospitals participating in the project have provided free obstetric and pediatric care to more than 70,000 pregnant women and some 200,000 children throughout the country (10 departments). This care has made a big difference in the lives of women such as Rostania Augustin, who gave birth at Fort-Liberté Hospital when she was a little over six months pregnant: “After the delivery, I spent 42 days here in the maternity ward before going home. I now see the doctor regularly.”

Hospital workers and Haitians believe that MATS has been worthwhile in many ways. Owing to the vulnerability and isolation of the population, ongoing follow-up of participants by the authorities is particularly important.

MATS has clearly understood this and is providing the necessary resources. “I visit pregnant women every day to see how they’re doing,” says Fania Pierre, a health officer with Maternité de Carrefour Hospital in Port-au-Prince. “If necessary, I go with them to the health centre, even if they have no way to get there.”

MATS funds the health institutions by emphasizing performance—a strategy that motivates hospital staff and strengthens good governance through rigorous tracking of clients and data. This approach has led to a much more effective decision-making process and has helped improve the technical capability of the hospitals and the quality of care they provide, particularly through recruitment and training of specialized staff.

It feels good to be listened to...

A survey of 199 participants indicates that the Haitians are very satisfied with the approach taken. By way of illustration, more than 80 percent of participants said they were happy with how they were received and listened to at the participating institutions.

For Canada, in addition to confirming that the initial objective was met (making health services accessible to women and children), this result is also helping Haitians develop an understanding of the advantages of shared responsibility (government/individual) for their well being.

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