On Tuesday, a torrent of pie fighting diaries overwhelmed a diary on Haitian relief (number 26 in the Daily Kos series). This one had a special focus on organizations specializing in women's health needs -- from pregnancy and childbirth to prevention of and responses to sexual violence, and more. These organizations deserve a further plug, and so here it is.
Women's eNews correspondent Rebecca Harshbarger reports:
Of the 3 million people affected by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti, and the aftershocks that continued as recently as Jan. 20, an estimated 63,000 are pregnant women. In the month ahead, 7,000 women are expected to deliver. Giving birth or seeking prenatal care in a city where even the presidential plaza is destroyed poses countless risks to women in Port-au-Prince and throughout the quake region.
The relief agency CARE similarly warns that pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and young children are at greatest risk.
"There are a lot of pregnant women in the streets, and mothers breastfeeding new babies," said Sophie Perez, country director for CARE in Haiti. "There are also women giving birth in the street, directly in the street. The situation is very critical. Women try to reach the nearest hospital, but as most of the hospitals are full, it's very difficult for them to receive the appropriate care. Mothers and their babies could die from complications without medical care." [emphasis added]
That is the short of it. Here are some of the excellent organizations directly involved in women's health in Haiti.
UNFPA -- the United Nations Population Fund is rushing in supplies and more. The agency reports that among the institutions destroyed were the Haitian Ministry of Womens Affairs as well as the nursing and midwifery schools the agency worked with.
International Planned Parenthood Federation whose affiliates in Haiti and the Dominican Republic are on the front lines states:
PROFAMILIA, our Member Association in neighbouring Dominican Republic, has diverted its mobile clinics – operating from minibuses – to cross the border to Haiti.
PROFAMIL and PROFAMILIA are struggling to fill the gaps and reach these women to ensure they can deliver safely.... The particular vulnerability of women and girls in emergency and crisis situations is frequently neglected during initial efforts to provide food, water and shelter. IPPF will focus its efforts on providing basic emergency health services to the wounded and injured, while also prioritizing the special needs of women and girls.
In the aftermath of a disaster or conflict, pregnancy-related deaths and incidences of rape and sexual violence soar. It is a sad reality that in the aftermath of a disaster, women and girls are extremely vulnerable to sexual coercion and violence. In Haiti the breakdown of law and order and growing civil unrest places women and girls at significantly increased risk.
Young people, especially girls and young women, become more vulnerable to HIV infection and sexual exploitation. Many women lose access to family planning services, exposing them to unwanted pregnancy, and in cases of rape, access to emergency contraception and counselling.
While IPPF is not a disaster relief organization, its Member Associations – PROFAMIL in Haiti and PROFAMILIA in the Dominican Republic – have a critical on the ground capacity to provide key services as the response moves to assist in some basic traumatic care and especially to help fulfill sexual and reproductive health needs now and in the coming months.
(See Beth Kanter's excellent interview with Laura Zaks, PROFAMIL Public Affairs Coordinator, at BlogHer.)
Circle of Health International (COHI), based in Bolton, MA, seeks "to build the capacity of women's health care providers in crisis settings" has a medical and health needs assessment team on the ground. In addition to funds, they need donations of a long list of specific medical supplies.
MADRE is among other things, partnering with Zanmi Lasante Clinic one of Haiti's largest nongovermental health care providers – and the only clinic that delivers comprehensive primary care, regardless of people's ability to pay. The clinic also has a mobile health care unit, which provides high-quality health care for women and girls who are unable to travel to the clinic itself.
United Methodist Women is a major mainline Christian organization with, among other things, longterm partner relationships with on the ground organizations in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
In the urgency of the moment, recovery funding can bypass grassroots women who are critical long-term partners to the success of relief efforts. Our support of local women’s organizations can help them be at the table when recovery efforts are being planned.