Skip Navigation
Disaster Preparedness The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing

"My Experiences in Haiti" by Lynne Hudson, RN, NP

Lynne Hudson is a women's health care nurse practitioner, who has taught public health nursing here at the UTSON in recent past spring semesters. She volunteered to assist in Haiti, post earthquake, and the following is her account of her experiences.

Even before the devastating earthquake of January12, 2010, Haiti had the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western hemisphere, with 607 women per 100,000 dying of childbirth complications. Recent estimates revealed that there are 37,000 pregnant women among the three million people affected by the earthquake.

Circle of Health International (COHI) is a small nonprofit non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to addressing the unique and critical health needs of women in areas of disaster and crisis.

On February 1, 2010, I joined a team of COHI women's health providers and public health professionals who had been in Haiti since January 19. During my time in Haiti, I assumed many roles and participated in many different functions.

We conducted and produced a Rapid Health Assessment surveying internally displaced women living in tent encampments to identify pressing health needs and overall health status. I also performed an assessment of 12 health facilities in Port au Prince to assess their earthquake damage and the ability to meet reproductive health care needs or women residing in the damaged nearby communities.

The major thrust of work over my 3 weeks there focused on creating a birthing center and providing women's health care in a border community that was experiencing a huge migration of displaced persons. The general clinic saw about 350 patients each day. Our volunteer team provided care to at least 50 women a day, pregnant women and gyn patients. There were about 5 deliveries each week, but many more high risk or complicated patients transferred out when possible. In the process we became the main OB GYN referral site for the surrounding area.

We were able to recruit and support 2 Haitian midwives who will continue to work at the birthing center and provide reproductive health care after volunteer teams leave. With the Haitian midwives we provided training to over 50 traditional birth attendants (TBA) Over 80% of birth in Haiti occur at home with poorly skilled and/or equipped attendants. We provided hundreds of clean delivery kits for home births and also distributed many cases of contraceptives (condoms) to tent camps and clinics.

We made huge efforts by traveling several hours a day over rough or non-existent roads to assess the health needs and resources of outlying communities and attempted to connect and coordinate with other Haitian or international providers along the border area.

I was grateful for the opportunity to be there and participate in so many endeavors to meet and improve the care of women in Haiti.

By Lynne Hudson, RN, NP