CARE warned Saturday that pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and young children are at greatest risk in the wake of an earthquake that has devastated the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and left nearly three million people in need of assistance. There are an estimated 37,000 pregnant women among the affected population in urgent need of safe drinking water, food and medical care. Half of Haiti's population is younger than 18 years old.
Hospitals and medical centers have been destroyed, and remaining centers are overwhelmed treating people injured from the quake. With limited or no access to health facilities, pregnant women are at an even greater risk of complications and death related to pregnancy and childbirth. Haiti already has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the region: 670 deaths per 100,000 live births.
"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."
CARE set up at three hospitals Saturday and is distributing an eight-day supply of water purification packets to 12,000 people. The distributions target women and children, who are susceptible to water-borne illness such as diarrhea.
Normally 15 percent of pregnant women experience complications requiring medical interventions. The problem is even worse during a disaster. The majority of maternal deaths result from hemorrhage, infection, miscarriage, prolonged/obstructed labor and hypertensive disorders, many of which could be avoided with medical care.
CARE, which focuses on empowering women and girls as part of our global fight against poverty, has partnered with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in Haiti. The organizations will help meet the urgent needs of pregnant and lactating women left particularly vulnerable after the earthquake. CARE has extensive ongoing health programs in Haiti, and will coordinate with the local government to rebuild their health capacity.
As part of its immediate emergency response, CARE's distributions include:
- Water purification packets.
- Emergency food rations.
- Infant kits for mothers with newborns and young babies.
- Hygiene kits that include not only basic items such as soap and toothpaste but also sanitary napkins and panties for women.
After disasters, CARE normally also provides safe delivery kits for women and health centers to facilitate safer, cleaner deliveries. We are working together with partners to determine how to procure these items as quickly as possible.
"It is also particularly crucial that new mothers continue breastfeeding, which provides the safest nutrition to their babies," said Perez. "There is an urgent need for clean drinking water and additional nutritious food so new mothers do not become sick, dehydrated or malnourished, which may prevent them from breastfeeding."
CARE has launched a $10 million appeal for a three-year emergency relief and recovery program for the affected population.
CARE recognizes the following partners for their generous donations and in-kind support of our emergency relief efforts: Abbott, Baxter, Cargill, CARFAX, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, General Mills, Goldman Sachs, Hanesbrands Inc., InterContinental Hotels Group, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Pfizer, Potash, Procter & Gamble, Quiznos, Teavana, 3M, Troutman Sanders and UPS.