MamaBaby Haiti

Posted on Aug 4, 2014

Do you have a strong interest in maternal care? MamaBaby Haiti may develop your skills and give you an opportunity to serve in a country with the highest rate of maternal mortality in the western world. Operating a free-standing clinic in northern Haiti, MamaBaby Haiti provides maternity, newborn and well woman care. Services are offered with a heavy emphasis on education. Educating women about their pregnancies and their bodies allows them the freedom to become empowered individuals. In a week the clinic sees approximately 100 women for pregnancy-related issues, and facilitates 4-10 births. As described in the interview below, MamaBaby Haiti selected their location based on the region of the country with the greatest need. And the need is great indeed.

Volunteers are a vital part of MamaBaby Haiti. There are possibilities for professional midwives, student midwives, naturopathic physicians and students, US trained nurses, physicians and acupuncturists. They also welcome general community service workers. The following exchange with the kind and informative Executive Director, Kelli Beaty, LM, CPM offers more detail in topics from specific treatment approaches to the experiences of visiting providers.



CIC: With a strong need for maternal care all over Haiti, how did you choose your present location for the clinic?

MBH: We choose our area by determining the level of need in the community and accessibility to higher-level care facilities. Our desire was to be in a place that many women could reach without some of the drawbacks that traveling too far for care can create.

CIC: Do you work with or collaborate with any local NGOs or other international medical groups?

MBH: Yes, absolutely! Collaboration with other organizations is a critical part of having a successful organization in a foreign country. No single organization can do everything. Working together allows us to attack issues from several different angles, therefore bringing much problem solving ability to the table.

CIC: Who are the advisors to Mama Haiti, and who runs the day-to-day operations?

MBH: Our clinic is primarily Haitian run. We have a medical director on staff as well as several advisors. Our desire has been to create a sustainable operation that is Haitian owned and operated. We have a Haitian Operations Director who resides in the clinic along with several other Haitian staff. They facilitate the day-to-day operations of the clinic. Policies are generally created by a consensus method between our staff and the board of directors. Our board consists of US citizens and Haitians.

CIC: For the cases that require medical intervention, what are the options?

MBH: Within our clinic we have certain medications for several pregnancy related problems. We also utilize education and alternative medications. Occasionally women or newborns are transferred to a higher-level care facility. The options within our community for dealing with serious complications are local hospitals and clinics. These offer varying degrees of ability to treat complications. It is an absolute necessity for us to build partnerships with other organizations so as to have the most to offer the women and children we serve.

CIC: It looks like preeclampsia (pregnancy related hypertension) is a major condition that is seen at the clinic. The medical understanding of this condition is still emerging. What is the current understanding of this condition and how do you recognize and treat it?

MBH: There has not been much change in the understanding of this disease in the last several years; there are a few improved treatment recommendations that MBH is choosing to follow for those women that are at higher risk of developing the disease. Preeclampsia is a disease apart from pregnancy related hypertension as it has a different set of symptoms that do not always manifest in pregnancy-induced hypertension. At MamaBaby Haiti our goal is to train our staff, our community and as many as we can reach on the signs and symptoms of this deadly disease so that treatment can begin as soon as possible. Education alone will not eradicate this disease but it will certainly decrease the number of women and infants dying.

CIC: Cholera has been an active and ongoing health alert warning for Haiti since the earthquake. How do you help volunteers stay healthy?

MBH: First of all we have an awesome cook and staff that carefully wash our dishes and prepare our food. Currently cholera is rapidly decreasing in Haiti. Much education, time and effort has been put into curing this deadly disease. Good hygiene practices, not consuming water/food from unknown sources helps to alleviate the possibility of contracting this disease. We purchase purified bottled water for drinking purposes.

CIC: If someone wants to come help but is not a trained midwife, are there opportunities? Specifically, how might your organization use the skills of an acupuncturist?

MBH: There are certainly opportunities for all types of volunteers. In regards to acupuncturists, there are many opportunities within the clinic for both providers and students. Every day we see women with headaches, gas, high blood pressure, indigestion and emotional issues. There are many treatment and educational opportunities as well. We also have the ability to offer treatments at other facilities.

CIC: How do you manage or advise your volunteers coming from places as disparate as Canada or Taiwan about culture shock? Is there anything you’d like them to know about living and working in Haiti beforehand?

MBH: Oddly, Taiwan might not be that different. Haiti is densely populated and very busy, much like Taiwan. There are several books we recommend; we have conference calls prior to departure to discuss culture, food and the general experience. Generally volunteers love the country and the people although there can be some negative emotions related to culture shock. Many times using round table discussions and time for debriefing will help to work through these issues. We like people to know what a beautiful country Haiti is. Rising from generations of struggles and adversity, the Haitian people are strong, industrious and getting healthier every day!

CIC: What are your recommendations to volunteers who want to see more of Haiti, particularly in regard to safety?

MBH: We realize that travel to a foreign country often invokes the feeling of a vacation, the desire to experience a new culture and see things not yet discovered. We also understand the need for downtime after a long clinic day. We can arrange access to trusted taxis, hotels and several local historical sites and beaches. One option is to plan to stay a few days past your volunteer time with MBH and visit some of these sites. Due to our NGO status and our desire to protect our board members we do not act as a tour guide or host to offsite excursions.

CIC: What types of local providers typically volunteer at MamaBaby Haiti?

MBH: We have local midwives, medical translators, Haitian doctors, nurses, nursing students on site. We also have US trained naturopaths, midwives, physicians, and nurses.

CIC: Thank you, Kelli Beaty!

Note: If you’d like more information, please visit the excellent website http://www.mamababyhaiti.org. And if you do decide to volunteer, please send us a postcard (or an email)! The rest of us at the CIC would love to learn about your journey.

Recommended Reading

  • Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World (Random House Reader’s Circle) by Tracy Kidder
  • On That Day, Everybody Ate: One Woman’s Story of Hope and Possibility in Haiti, by Margaret Trost and Paul Farmer
  • The Uses of Haiti by Paul Farmer, Noam Chomsky, and Jonathan Kozol
  • Walking on Fire: Haitian Women’s Stories of Survival and Resistance by Beverly Bell
  • The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster by Jonathan Katz
  • Haiti After the Earthquake by Paul Farmer