The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Haitian and Canadian governments launched a maternal and child health initiative today, a continuation and expansion of two existing programs. Even prior to the earthquake, Haiti was a difficult place to be a mother or a young child. Through this initiative, mothers and children under five receive basic care without cost. The intent is to progressively scale up this initiative to 90 health care facilities throughout the country. The full press release follows.
Each year, the U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor is mandated to release country specific human rights reports that address individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As this report pertains strictly to 2009, it does not address human rights issues in post earthquake Haiti. Still, it is highly relevant as long term recovery and reconstruction will depend in part upon creating a culture that respects human rights and a government that can enforce them.
Before the earthquake women and girls faced great challenges. Now even more than ever. The earthquake did not discriminate based on gender, but women will be disproportionately affected. Death from childbirth, sexual violence, unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions, possible spread of HIV- these are a few of the increasing challenges facing Haitian women and girls. Despite this, lifesaving reproductive health services can reduce this unequal impact. The RHRC Consortium's statement describes the immediate and long-term health care needs of women and girls and is copied below.
JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. is a health research/consulting firm dedicated to improving the health of individuals and communities worldwide. JSI visited Haiti in January 2009 to identify gaps in the availability and accessibility of reproductive health (RH) services and to assess community responses for strengthening quality, accessibility and availability. Reproductive health is a social issue, a public health issue, a human rights issue, a security issue, and one that is important for countries that are fragile, stable, or in Haiti's case, teetering in between. The report is attached and deserves to be widely read.
Nicholas Kristof wrote an article on the importance of family planning to poverty reduction. The article revolves around the lives of a woman named Nahomie, her ten children, and the grinding poverty they are facing. I've copied the article below but you can also read it on his excellent blog ""On the Ground." After, take a look at the +250 comments posted and consider adding your own. It is my hope that Nahomie's children will fare better. With the United States supporting the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) again, perhaps we can yet make that a reality.