Three of us will be traveling to Haiti next week to work at Mama Baby Haiti, a birthing center in Cap Haitian that employs Haitian trained nurse midwives. They have received a grant from Dining for Women which allows them to expand their program to include well woman care. A community health worker will be trained to educate area women about sexually transmitted disease, contraception and cervical cancer screening. The goal of our trip is to train midwives, physicians and nurses in the technique of cervical cancer screening with VIA(visual inspection with acetic acid). 285,000 women die each year of cervical cancer, 85% of them in the developing world. During my last trip to Haiti in November 2014 we diagnosed 5 cases of advanced cervical cancer. Screening via VIA is very inexpensive (the cost of vinegar and a cotton swab) and treatment for pre-cancerous lesions by freezing the cervix can be performed the same day. This treatment is 75-90% effective at preventing the development of cervical cancer. There is no facility in Haiti available for treating a patient with locally advanced cervical cancer, so screening and treatment is of even more importance than a similar service in America.
Haitian women are the backbone of the family. When they become sick or die, not only is their children’s health affected but also their child’s ability to attend school. Talking to Haitian women about their daily lives and what they wanted for their children’s future was the impetus for creating the microfinance organization, Helping Haiti Work. A recent facebook post by Nadene Brunk, the founder of Midwives for Haiti, which is the program that trained the midwives that are employed at Mama Baby Haiti, sums up much of what I have learned from Haitian women.
Please continue to check in here or at Helping Haiti Work over the next few weeks, as I will continue to report on our work in Haiti with both photos and video.