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Craig Ramano









Tribune Newspapers

Providence nurse in Haiti, where birth training is lacking

EVERETT — Everett nurse Jessica Robbins is making a difference as she is currently in Haiti on a humanitarian trip.
She’s on the impoverished island nation with the program Midwives for Haiti to aid in their birthing crisis.
She flew out on Nov. 4 and will be working for two weeks alongside eager residents and four other nurses in the least wealthy country of the western hemisphere, hoping to promote health and well being where she can in a calamity of 10 million citizens.
Haiti has the highest birthing mortality rate of anywhere in the western hemisphere. Organizations say there is only one midwife per 50,000 people and 75 percent of births do not have anyone present.
According to the Midwives for Haiti literature, these harrowing numbers continue as there is only one doctor per 8,000 inhabitants, and only one nurse per 6,000 inhabitants, which is why an estimated 1,000 Haitian women will die this year in childbirth.
Here at home, Robbins has been blessed with abundance.  A happily married mother of five, she also is caregiver to her grandmother and granddaughter who both live with her.  She has been a registered nurse since 2007 and works at the Providence Hospital Regional Pavilion for Women and Children on Pacific Avenue.
“A mother dying in child-birth is something that I have never witnessed, in almost nine years,” she said.
Most of the maternal deaths in Haiti are induced by eclampsia, sepsis, and postpartum hemorrhage, and 99 percent of which are completely preventable, according to the Midwives for Haiti literature.
What began as a small team of volunteer midwives and medical professionals in 2003 to combat these ills has now blossomed into an organized and stringent training program, lasting 12 months. The newly trained Haitian Skilled Birth
Attendant graduates receive a Certificate in Essential Obstetrics from Haiti’s Ministry of Public Health and Population.
“We just marked our 10th anniversary in Haiti,” said Summer Aronson, communications director for Midwives for Haiti, which is located in London, England. Within that timeframe the program has been able to place in each Haitian district over 100 skilled birth attendants.
Other progressive programs developed by Midwives for Haiti include maternity services at Hospital St. Therese in Hinch, a Postnatal Care Program, a Mobile Prenatal Clinic, a Matwòn Outreach Program— which is a five-month training program for traditional Haitian birth attendants, — and the Carrie Wortham Birth Center in Cabestor.
Robbins will spend one week in Cabestor to work at the Carrie Wortham Birth Center and one week in Hinch at a communal working and
living area. Volunteers are asked to bring a stethoscope, gloves, blood pressure cuff, alcohol wipes, and doppler.
Each community has full-time Haitian cooks, beds with mosquito nets, clean sheets and towels, cold showers, drinking water, electricity, Wi-Fi, fruit trees, and one helmet for motorcycle taxis.  There are no ATMs in either city, so volunteers are asked to bring $100 to $200, in only crisp, clean one or five dollar bills, because crumpled bills will not be accepted anywhere. Frivolity items to purchase include Creole lessons, Latin dance lessons, Coca-Cola, beer, and rum as well as local artisan goods.
An interpreter will be provided at each medical site and neither community has trash pick up or recycling so volunteers are asked to be mindful when packing.
While the trip comes with a sense of adventure and excitement, Midwives for Haiti warns volunteers it is a rough experience. The program board also gently reminds volunteers that electricity and running water are a luxury on volunteer sites only, and will most likely not be encountered elsewhere in the country. 
The trip cost $2,500, and Robbins raised the money on her own through community donations.
With perservance, letter writing, and an online GoFundMe account, Robbins was able to raise the money in five short months. She is one of four going on this particular trip.


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