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COVID-19: Haitian midwives ensure continuity of maternal health and sexual and reproductive health services

5 May 2020
Midwife and services continuity in Covid time

Port-au-Prince, May 5, 2020 --- The Association of Nurses Midwives of Haiti (AISFH) is organizing with the support of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, an online survey funded by "Affaires Mondiales Canada" (Canada Global Affairs) to all of its members across the country. This qualitative survey is spread over 2 weeks. It aims to learn about the working environment of midwives in this period of health crisis caused by the coronavirus, so as to see how to support the Ministry of Public Health (MoH) for the continuation of maternal health and reproductive health care.

The survey addresses questions relating in particular to compliance with protection rules in the institutions where midwives work. It also seeks to ensure the mental health of midwives to know if they are informed and trained on the Covid-19, if they protect themselves while protecting health institutions users, if they are involved in discussions on the redevelopment and continuity of services.

This online survey follows a series of training sessions on COVID-19 prevention measures organized by AISFH in April 2020, for around 40 midwives from various institutions in the West department and a dozen coordinators of the association's departmental committees. This training has broadened the knowledge of the coordinators of the association's departmental committees on the transmission of the disease, how to prevent it and live with it if it is contracted in the workplace. The survey makes it possible to establish contact with midwives throughout the national territory, in particular those who were not present at the training.

Anticipate to prevent indirect comorbidity of Covid-19

Considering the unfortunate experiences of some countries where the Covid-19 crisis had to impact maternal and reproductive health by causing an indirect excess mortality of the Coronavirus, AISFH, UNFPA and Canada World Affairs wanted, through this survey, anticipate to find out the shortcomings related to the implementation of the Covid-19 protocol in health institutions in order to make the necessary adjustments for services. Because even in a pandemic, women continue to get pregnant, need to give birth with the assistance of qualified personnel so as not to die while giving birth, contraceptive needs must be covered to avoid unwanted pregnancies, survivors of gender-based violence need to be taken care of.

UNFPA is working with the Haitian Government in particular and civil society to ensure the continuity of reproductive health and maternal health services during this pandemic through a public information campaign and community engagement by mobilizing the contributions of midwives, community workers and health professionals in general.

Indeed, the MoH organizes, with the technical support of UNFPA and the financial support of World Affairs Canada, a training on services continuity in the COVID-19 context for midwives and health reproductive managers at the departmental level on May 7 and 8, 2020, in Port-au-Prince. Midwives will have to replicate this training in the institutions where they work at the departmental level in coordination with the directorates.

Alo Saj Fanm

At the same time, UNFPA is going to set up in agreement with the MoH a series of audio-visual capsules in the form of info-services to answer the multiple questions that pregnant women and communities are asking themselves during the epidemic period. They will soon be communicated to community radios and through Sound Trucks and BoomBox to reach the most remote areas of the country. The development of these capsules is a prelude to the launch next June of a call center with midwives as operators who will answer questions from communities on reproductive health, including maternal health. These midwives will act as intermediaries between health institutions and communities and will guide families in the event of complications.

Protective equipment for health providers

In the same vein, the MoH with the support of several partners including UNFPA, will proceed from the week of May 11 to the distribution of personal protection equipment (PPE kits) to health institutions providers including midwives to ensure maternal health services continuity. This distribution will start at around fifty institutions in five departments. These kits include masks, gloves, hand sanitizer solutions, overcoats, goggles and caps.

In addition, UNFPA as “co-lead” with WHO in the “infection control and prevention” pillar together with other United Nations agencies supplied 95 health institutions in different departments of the country with hand washing so as to reassure health providers and users and thereby allow the continuity of essential services.

                                                                                                                                                  Vario Sérant