Child & Maternal Mortality
Neonatal mortality: “Neonatal” defined: The first four weeks of life. In Haiti, of all the deaths of children five years of age and under, a third die in the neonatal period with approximately 90% of these deaths occurring in the first week of life.
Infant mortality: “Infant” defined: The first year of life. In 2013, 75% of childhood deaths, over 8,000 infants, occurred before a child’s first birthday.
Child mortality: “Child” defined: Children five years of age and under. In 2013 there were over 20,000 deaths in children under five, with over 5,000 dying between their first and fifth birthdays.
Maternal mortality: In 2013, there were over 1,000 maternal deaths, unfortunately not significantly different from 2010.
Summary: Haiti has the highest rates of infant, children under five, and maternal mortality in the Western hemisphere. This is unacceptable.
Causes of Child, Neonatal, and Maternal Deaths
Overall, the causes responsible for these deaths are almost universally preventable and treatable.
Poverty: One reason may seem obvious—poverty. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world.
Neonatal causes: According to the WHO, more than 80% of all global neonatal deaths are preterm birth complications, newborn infections, and birth asphyxia.
Prematurity: 14% of Haiti’s births in 2010 were preterm, similar to Bangladesh and Liberia.
Low Birth Weight: In Haiti, the percentage of low birth weight infants in 2008 to 2012 was 23% of all births. During the same period in the Dominican Republic the percentage of low birth rate was half that number.
Child causes: Injuries are by far the most common cause of death in children age 1 to 5 years of age (66%), followed by pneumonia (11%) and diarrheal diseases (8%). The lack of availability of pneumonia treatment in Haiti is one measure that explains why children are dying at such an appalling rate compared with other Caribbean countries.
Maternal causes: In Haiti the primary cause of maternal death is eclampsia (37.5%) with hemorrhage the second cause (22%). The major risk factor for eclampsia is high blood pressure, and Haiti has the highest incidence of hypertension in the Caribbean.
The following are factors contributing to the child and maternal crisis in Haiti:
Geographical Isolation: A high percentage of the Haitian population lives in rural, mountainous areas accessible only by extremely poor roads.
Cost Barrier: The evidence suggests that the financial barrier to health care is one of the most important obstacles for pregnant women needing access to obstetric care in Haiti. If a pregnant woman is unable to pay for a midwife or physician, most likely she will be delivering the baby at home alone.
Low Percentage of Skilled Attendants at the Deliveries: An extreme lack of skilled attendants in Haiti resulted in mothers delivering babies at home alone 75% of the time in rural settings.
Inadequate Health Care Facilities: Only 25% of women deliver in hospitals. Most are in urban areas, and even if mother could have access a hospital, most are generally not staffed or equipped adequately to provide the necessary obstetrical care for complicated deliveries.
A major contributing factor for the child and maternal deaths in Haiti is the fact that there is a major shortage of neonatal intensive care units, pediatric intensive care units, and adult intensive care units. Despite the very high rates of prematurity, lifesaving neonatal care is almost completely unavailable to the vast number of babies needing intensive assistance, especially if they are born in rural in Haiti.
Health Care Practitioners – Inadequate Numbers and Training: In Haiti, there is a tremendous undersupply of physicians and other health professionals. Inadequate equipment and insufficient supplies of medication further compromise their practices.
The problem of a shortage of trained medical personnel is exacerbated by the large exodus of professionals to Canada and to the States, a fact that has frustrated Haitian health care leaders working to improve conditions in their country.
Numbers are based on a compilation of WHO and UNICEF statistics