International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife
The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as the “International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife,” in honor of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.
“Nurses and midwives play a vital role in providing health services. These are the people who devote their lives to caring for mothers and children; giving lifesaving immunizations and health advice; looking after older people and generally meeting everyday essential health needs. They are often, the first and only point of care in their communities.”
All of us at Medical Missionaries wholeheartedly agree with these sentiments and celebrate all the nurses and midwives who have worked with us throughout the years, both in the USA and in Haiti.
Nurses have been an essential part of Medical Missionaries from our early days when Dr. Gil Irwin recruited doctors and nurses to join him on medical teams to the Dominican Republic and Haiti. These volunteers have grown into a dedicated group of over 200 nurses, doctors, dentists, and others who volunteer to help the poorest of the poor by working with Medical Missionaries.
Nurses have not only gone to Haiti on medical teams (often organizing the logistics), but they also support our work locally, from helping at the office and events, to organizing, packing and delivering medical and household supplies to be given to those in need in the USA and internationally.
At St. Joseph Clinic in Haiti, skilled nurses provide much-needed care at the Clinic. Serving a population of over 125,000 people in the Thomassique region, the Clinic sees about 25,000 patients each year. The nurses are an important point of care in their community.
Nurses and midwives are especially critical in the Clinic’s Maternity and Infant Care Program. There is a high rate of maternal and infant mortality in Haiti, and 75% of births take place at home. The training of Haitian nurses and midwives to reduce the high rate of mortality has been a priority since the early days of Medical Missionaries.
The Clinic is currently staffed by 7 nurses and 4 midwives skilled in midwifery who facilitate safe births, provide both pre- and postnatal care, and conduct education on newborn health.
Since 2013, Medical Missionaries has also trained 42 Matwons (Traditional Birth Attendants) who work in Thomassique’s outlying villages to facilitate home births in a safer environment. The Matwons come to the Clinic each month for additional education, to meet with each other and the Clinic midwives, and to pick up clean delivery kits to use for the next month.
In 2019 alone, over 500 babies were born at St. Joseph Clinic, and enough clean delivery kits were distributed to Matwons to attend the more than 2,000 home births in the region.
We are grateful for all the nurses and midwives that have contributed to our efforts throughout the years!
Read stories from two nurses who are dedicated volunteers and traveled with medical teams to Haiti in the early days of our work there:
My Hope for All Children by Carolyn Jeans, RN
William, Smiling and Full of Life by Debra Parrish, RN