"Have things gotten better?" International visitors often ask me, a Haitian doctor and the Associate Director of the St. Luke Foundation medical mission.
The truth is not a simple one. There are two sides of the coin, and both are essential in order to understand what is happening in Haiti -- and what we are doing at the St. Luke Foundation.
According to the World Bank's Global Development Indicators, maternal mortality as well as infant and child mortality rates in Haiti are the worst in the Western Hemisphere. The maternal mortality rate, based on the most recently available data from 2013, was 380 per 100,000 live births in Haiti. The 2013 infant mortality rate was 55 per 1,000 live births, and under-five mortality was 73 per 1,000 live births. According to a recent census there are fewer than 2 doctors for every 10,000 people.
The statistics are depressing, but the real tragedy lies in the fact that these numbers actually represent the women and children of Haiti.
I recently spent some time talking with Nathalie, a patient at Manitane Women's Health Center and a first-time expecting mother. Nathalie, 26, is unemployed. She works hard in the informal economy of Haiti, selling goods and doing odd jobs. Her husband works in construction when he can find work. They are hopeful of finding full-time employment soon, but currently they live week-to-week, month-to-month. And unfortunately, with this instability in their income comes the lack of extra funds for health care.
Nathalie has found care with us at Manitane Women's Health Center, and I was pleased to chat with her the other day as she left an appointment. Dr. Nelson, who runs the program, introduced me and I took the chance to get to know her. She gushed about Dr. Nelson, referring to her devotion, the fact that she picks up the phone at all hours when Nathalie calls with questions, the fact that this was her sixth appointment in seven months, the fact that she is able to go home with nutrition after her visits. Nathalie was so grateful to have found our support, knowing full well that many in the country are unable to do so.
St. Luke's Women's Health Clinic, Manitane, sees 1,000 mothers a month, providing prenatal care, ultrasounds, vitamins and targeted nutrition. Through these visits, high-risk pregnancies are directed to an appropriate birthing center within our network, with our partner hospital St. Damien's providing specialty care and surgical intervention when necessary.
There is great promise, strength and capacity in my country, waiting to be unlocked, harnessed. What is needed to continue with our work is international support, which brings resources directly to those on the ground. Programs like Manitane look to support from partners to help fuel its work. Johnson & Johnson is an example of such a partner, having supported our work with women's health at Manitane for the past two years now. Johnson & Johnson staff has spent time at our program facilities, engaging in dialogue with our leadership and medical staff.
Our partners provide essential fuel to keep Dr. Nelson providing care to women like Nathalie, fighting continually to turn the tide, one patient at a time.
Editor's Note: Johnson & Johnson is a sponsor of The Huffington Post's Global Motherhood section.