Education Saves a Mother’s Life

Kore Sante, a 5-year project funded by USAID, aims to improve health in southern Haiti by elevating the quality of care and increasing demand for essential health services. Access to prenatal care is one such service the project is working to bring to more patients in more places. One way we are accomplishing this goal is through pregnancy clubs, which provide support and health education to expectant mothers in 22 locations across the region. To date, these clubs have helped over 600 women—and counting.

This is the story of how Jeanise and her baby’s lives were saved through a strong, interconnected health system that puts patients first.

Jeanise, a 38-year-old mother, lives in Bahot in Haiti’s South-East department. Like many women in Haiti, she works as a trader and is active in her community while also shouldering most of the responsibility for raising her children.

In early 2023 she brought her two children to a local rally post for vaccinations and malnutrition screenings. The community health worker there, Mr. Bens, asked Jeanise about her own health. Jeanise was in the first trimester of pregnancy, so Mr. Bens referred her to the nearest clinic for prenatal care. Even though she had never visited a health facility during her previous pregnancies and the Bahot clinic is three hours by foot from her home, Jeanise followed Mr. Bens’ advice and went for her first prenatal visit 12 weeks into her pregnancy.

At that appointment, community nurse Miss Marie Claude invited Jeanise to join the Bahot pregnancy club, a group that provides support and health education to expectant mothers. Jeanise was reluctant to join at first but decided to attend a meeting when she came for her next month’s checkup. From then on, she kept coming back. By the time she was nearing her due date, Jeanise had completed five prenatal visits, set up a delivery plan with the clinic, and participated in a cooking demonstration focused on highly nutritious yet affordable foods.

One evening, after a long day at the public market, Jeanise experienced a severe headache. She drank a traditional herbal tea, but her headache did not go away. The following morning she remembered what the support group had taught her about danger signs during pregnancy. “This is a danger sign. Please take me to the clinic,” she told her family.

“This is a danger sign. Please take me to the clinic.”

At the Bahot clinic, a nurse found that Jeanise had high blood pressure and other signs of preeclampsia, a condition that can lead to convulsions and even death if left untreated. The nurse stabilized Jeanise and referred her to a different healthcare facility where she could receive more comprehensive services. There, Jeanise gave birth safely and in good health. She was soon back at home, introducing her older children to the newest member of their family. And two days later, Mr. Bens came by for a visit, proud of the role he had played in their story.

Jeanise later shared her experience at an event recognizing women like herself who completed the full support group curriculum. She told the assembly, “Aside from God, the pregnancy club led by Miss Marie Claude saved me and my baby. She instructed and educated me for six months, and I learned many new things about pregnancy and child care. I invite all pregnant women to join the club.”

Jeanise will also be recommending the clinic and the club to members of women’s groups in her community, strengthening her neighbors’ connections with the formal health system. The end result? Healthier families, healthier communities.