On the occasion of the International Day of Midwives : Tribute to a Haitian midwife who saved lives at the peril of her life during Hurricane Matthew

9 May 2017
Miss Casimir with Representatives of the Government, Parliament, PAHO-WHO, UNFPA and the Midwifery Association. Photo: Nadia Todres

Port-au-Prince, May 9, 2017 --- The Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) honors midwife Marie Lirette Casimir for her professionalism and dedication to saving lives.

On the night of the hurricane, October 3 to 4, 2017, Miss Casimir, who was on duty at Saint-Antoine's Hospital of Jeremie (South West of Haiti), risked her own life to help six women to give birth safely.

The storm gathered strength around midnight, Ms. Casimir recounted. Winds over 200 kilometers per hour buffeted the hospital, ripping open parts of the roof. Torrential rain shattered windows, and the electricity supply was cut.

Still, she said, « I had to stay in the hospital to work. My professional conscience wouldn’t have let me leave. I couldn’t have let the women there to die ».

That night, Ms. Casimir safely delivered six babies by torchlight.

The MSPP also awards an Honor and Merit plaque to another midwife, Miss Marie Martine Lygie Pierre, who stands out for her professionalism in her work in the capital's main hospital, the HUEH (Hospital of the State University of Haiti).

These awards were attributed on the occasion of the celebration in Haiti of the International Day of Midwives on May 5 by the Association of Nurses Midwives of Haiti (AISFH), the Ministry of Public Health and Population, and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

This event, punctuated by a quiz on the profession of midwife and the musical animation of the engaged singer Jean Jean Roosevelt, took place in the presence of a hundred people, including representatives of the Government, parliamentarians (the women Deputies of Savanette and Jérémie), representatives of international organizations and Haitian civil society.

This celebration was an opportunity for the President of AISFH, Juliana Joseph, to advocate for the integration of nurse midwives into the health system as soon as they have finished their social service.

Dr Fritz Gérald Nérette, a member of the Cabinet of the Minister of Public Health, admitted the inadequacy of the number of midwives in the health structures of the country, stressing that the Ministry is working to remedy this.

UNFPA supports the Haitian authorities for the deployment of 2,200 midwives throughout the country to adequately meet the needs of the population. The National Institute for the Training of Midwives (INSFSF), of which UNFPA is the sole financial contributor, with the MSPP, trains about 100 professional midwives each year.

Midwives are a pillar in the struggle to improve maternal and neonatal health and the reduction of the maternal mortality rate in Haiti, which remains the highest in the hemisphere, UNFPA Representative said.

According to Marielle Sander, "the investment of two dollars per capita will prevent 12,000 maternal deaths, 74,000 deaths of newborns, and 25,000 stillbirths by 2036".

For its part, PAHO-WHO proposes to support the midwives through sharing experiences in areas such as training, research, legislation, and the humanization of childbirth care.

By celebrating the International Day of Midwives in Haiti, AISFH, MSPP and UNFPA wanted to recall that Haitian women deserve professionals who are trained specifically in women's health, so that women plan Better their lives and have a better future.

According to the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), access to a qualified midwife can help reduce and prevent the deaths of more than 287,000 women in the world who die in childbirth, maternal disabilities complications at birth and deaths of 2.7 million newborns in the first 28 days of their lives because their mother died.