Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Birth Around the World: Mother Health International in Haiti

On the anniversary of the terrible earthquake in Haiti that took so many lives, I want to highlight a non-profit organization dedicated to improving maternal and child health in Haiti. Mother Health International was founded a year ago today to "respond and provide relief to pregnant women and children in areas of disaster and extreme poverty." It is run by a volunteer medical advisory board of CNMs, CPMs, OBs, and NDs.
Mother and baby at MHI
From the MHI mission statement:
We are committed to reducing the maternal and infant mortality rates by creating healthy, sustainable holistic birth clinics using the midwifery model of care with culturally appropriate, education for the health and empowerment of women. With every healthy birth there is a positive benefit for the communities that we serve and the world as a whole. Our ultimate mission is to empower and educate the local clinic staff, with gender equality, to become the health care providers for their community.
I wrote to Heather L. Maurer, Co-Founder and Executive Director, for more information about her organization. Here is a brief history of MHI:
Located in the country’s southern coast, Jacmel suffered extensive causalities as well as was left littered with crumbled buildings and destruction after the January 12, 7.0 earth quake. MHI founding members were part of a first responder team of seven medics, midwives and support staff, originally affiliated with Bumi Sehat International Foundation, who traveled to Jacmel, Haiti on January 28, 2010 via Santa Domingo, DR to offer disaster relief to women and children. With the help from private donations, NGO’s, nonprofit organizations and government organizations, the team was able to provide emergency medical aid, water and food to the women and children who survived the earthquake.

Shortly after arriving in Jacmel, the founders of MHI recognized the greater need beyond disaster and emergency aid and began the process to build a holistic birth clinic in the heart of one of the most under served areas in Jacmel, St. Helen Parish. On March 10, MHI officially opened our doors to pregnant women and started prenatal evaluations. A few weeks after the opening of the birth clinic, the first baby boy was born into the hands of a volunteer midwife, peacefully and healthy. Today over 400 babies have been born at our birth center and thousands of women have received prenatal visits. Midwives and OB/GYN’s come from around the world volunteer their time in the birth clinic. Our birth attendants are skilled at gentle birthing techniques intended to offer women a place of dignity in which to give birth, reduce pain, decrease interventions and cesarean sections. Our model of care incorporates traditional holistic midwifery care while respecting and embracing Haitian culture and customs.

Our plans are to build permanent structures to serve as our birth clinic and we are searching for a sponsor/donor. We are in immediate need for this as the demands are growing.
Mother Health International's birth clinic in Jacmel has seen over 425 births since its opening in March 2010. It is housed in a 44-foot diameter (1,500 square feet) dome from Pacific Domes. The birth center has 9 beds.
Interior of dome
Dome at night
I love reading the employees' and volunteers' stories of their time at MHI. To keep this post from running too long, I won't repost them all here. Please take the time to visit these links--I think you'll find them as inspiring as I have:
For a feel of what it's like to give birth at the MHI clinic, read Imaccula's birth story or the story of MHI's first set of twins. You can learn more about MHI at their website, blog, and Facebook page.
Eloufeine traveled 2 hours to birth at the MHI clinic.
If you like what MHI is doing, please consider donating to help keep the clinic operating. All money donated to MHI goes directly to maintain and sustain the birth clinic in Haiti; board members and directors work on a volunteer basis.


  1. Oh Haiti-such a sad situation. I recently read that about 2 billion dollars has poured into Haiti since the earthquake-mostly to NGO's. While I think serving others is a great idea, I'm not sure how I feel about NGO's doing the running of the country. Wouldn't a better plan be to have the UN set up some sort of interim government and get the entire country working again and then hand it back over to the Haitians at that point? NGO's often have huge overheads-just because something is non-profit does not mean people don't draw large salaries from it.

  2. Mother Health International is a registered nonprofit organization in
    the state of Virginia. We have applied for our 501c3 status with the IRS. We are in our final phase of approval for this status. We are
    seeking this status so all donations from US donors can be tax
    deductible. Additionally, it will allow us to apply for grants to fund
    our birth clinic. Our articles of incorporation and by laws have been written as such that no Director nor Board of Directors will be paid. All support staff whether Director or otherwise in the US is volunteer. All midwives and doctors who come to our birth clinic are volunteers. All overhead on the US side is paid by the individual directors and board members out of their own pockets.

    All money that has been raised to date has come from individuals and
    small businesses which goes directly to support the birth clinic in Haiti. We have had a few private foundations make larger donations. Specifically all funds raised go directly to pay the Haitian MHI team members and for expenses as they relate to the clinic. Our yearly rent is $9,000 a month. Our monthly costs for running the birth clinic are
    $3400 for staff salaries and $1000 a month for food and medical
    supplies. We turn no woman away from any services our clinic offers.
    All efforts to date have been grass roots to sustain our clinic. We
    have not received any money at this time from any Government organization or major NGO. When you donate to Mother Health
    International, you give directly to a Haitian woman who is studying to
    become a midwife or a Haitian woman who seeks employment at the MHI
    birth clinic to support her family or to a pregnant woman seeking the
    birth services we offer. Our ultimate goal is to train this fantastic team of Haitian women to run this clinic on their own. We are
    supporting them until there is more governmental structure in Haiti to
    help sustain our clinic.

    The Directors and Board members are doing everything possible to
    ensure the survival of this birth clinic. We have done absolutely
    everything in our power to reduce our expenses to the minimum without
    compromising the level of care we give to the pregnant women in Haiti.

    Our mission: Mother Health International is dedicated to respond and provide relief to pregnant women and children in areas of disaster and extreme poverty. We are committed to reducing the maternal and infant mortality rates by creating healthy, sustainable holistic birthing centers using the
    midwifery model of care with culturally appropriate education for the health and empowerment of women. With every healthy birth there is a positive benefit for the communities that we serve and the world as a whole.

    We are grateful to all who have helped get the word out about our
    clinic, those who have donated and those who have volunteered. It is because of their generosity of spirit that we are able to stay open. We continue to need assistance on a monthly basis until we receive a large grant to fully fund the clinic.

    Thank you, Heather L. Maurer, Co-Founder, Executive Director, Mother
    Health International

  3. I am happy to announce that Mother Health International received our 501c3 tax-exempt status from the IRS! Thank you for all who have supported us your past and future contributions are tax deductible.

    Heather L. Maurer
    Founder, Executive Director
    Mother Health International


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