August 30, 2011
Mirebalais Teaching Hospital to Stem Tide of Haitian Women Going to DR to Give Birth

Haitian women in Dominican maternity ward. Photo credit: Washington Post. Reprinted in Seattle Times.


Imagine crossing a border in labor.  Pregnant Haitian women without access to birthing care — in a country with one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world — stream across the border to give birth in the Dominican Republic where health care is free and accessible, so reports Lauren Gilgen of the Washington Post this week.  


The new Women’s Health complex at the National Teaching Hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti will help change that, explains Dr. David Walton of Partners in Health and a Global Health Fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston


“In Haiti, a country with the second most NGOs per capita in the world, estimates still place maternal mortality at over 600 per 100,000 live births. This staggering lack of access to care forces a great majority of women to fend for themselves, resulting in hundreds of women fleeing to the Dominican Republic to deliver their children.  The right to safe motherhood is a priority for the Ministry of Health, and the construction of the new Mirebalais Hospital Women’s Health Services program in the Mirebalais hospital is a concrete step in the right direction.  It will comprise more than 33% of the overall footprint of the 200,000 square foot hospital  — the largest and most comprehensive program dedicated solely to women’s health outside of Port au Prince. With this new initiative, Partners In Health will be facilitating the ability of the Ministry of Health to fulfill their promise of guaranteeing safe motherhood to the women of Haiti.”


The article by Lauren Gilgen notes that Haitian women seek care in the DR “so they they can have their babies in hospitals instead of on the floors of their homes…  In Haiti, 27 of every 1,000 newborns died in 2009, according to the latest numbers from UNICEF (compared to 17 of every 1,000 in the DR.   The Haitian rate is) …nearly seven times the U.S. rate. For the mothers, the situation is even worse. The lifetime odds of a woman dying while giving birth in Haiti are one in 93. The rate in the United States is 1 in 2,100.”


Border guards tend to allow desperate Haitian women in, despite the fact that they are straining the Dominican health system, where over half of births are to Haitian women.   “The Dominican health-care system is designed to care for about 7 million people… The Dominican Republic has a population of nearly 10 million, and more than a million of them are Haitians, with more coming every day.”

Dr. David Walton doing construction at the Mirebalais National Teaching Hospital


Dr. David Walton, Senior Advisor for Health and Medical Infrastructure, oversees the Mirebalais Hospital Project for Partners in Health.

For the full article from the Washington Post see