The PBS newsmagazine show NOW on PBS highlighted maternal mortality in Haiti on Friday night with an interview from Ann Starrs, president of Family Care International. While Haiti's catastrophic earthquake has left lives and institutions in ruin, it has also exacerbated a longtime lethal risk in Haiti: Dying during childbirth. Challenges in transportation, education, and quality health care contribute to Haiti having the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere, a national crisis even before the earthquake struck.
A NOW team had been working in Haiti when the earthquake struck, and they reported from the field on maternal health issues. They meet members of the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF), which operates a network of health agents in more than 100 villages, engaging in pre-natal visits, education, and emergency ambulance runs for pregnant women. The Reproductive Health Response in Conflict (RHRC) Consortium estimates that there are approximately 63,000 pregnant women in Port- au?Prince, 7,000 of whom will deliver in the coming month. Further, 15% (9,450 women) of all pregnant women will also require care for life threatening pregnancy complications.The United Nations Population Fund, which trains midwives to share life-saving birth techniques and serve in rural communities, says that with proper funding, public support, and wider application of simple but scarce innovations, such deaths could be reduced by nearly 70 percent.