Improving Maternal & Infant Health & Survival in Haiti

Unlike other countries across the Western Hemisphere, when a child is born in Haiti there is pause to the celebration. The chance of survival is low and many mothers may wait as long as three months before granting their child a name.

Sophie takes her chances and names her newborn: Duymay.  Sophie and her family of six live in a home made of mud and bricks. They farm beans and corn to earn less than 1 USD/day and must walk twenty minutes to reach water. Sophie must choose between food for her family or diapers for Duymay.

This condition happens every day for many rural Haitian families; inadequate diapering leads to diarrhea and worm infestations. Diarrhea is the number one cause of death for children under the age of 5. At home, most children are left without diapers and then exposed to unsanitary conditions such as worms and parasites that live in the dirt. Parasite and worm infestations cause diarrhea, poor appetite, anemia, intestinal obstruction and malnutrition.

Even if diarrhea is not the direct cause of death, it is a leading cause of malnutrition — leading to a variety of health problems for affected children.

To overcome this issue, Jake’s Diapers’ provides the tools mothers need to create better living conditions for their children.

Jake’s Diapers, a Wisconsin based nonprofit diaper bank with an international reach, fulfills the basic need of diapers for partner agencies worldwide.

“No caregiver, near or far, should ever have to choose between food, diapers, and medical care.” says Stephanie Bowers, co-founder of Jake’s Diapers. “Our partner agencies serve as the boots on the ground. We exist to help them with basic needs. This enables them to focus on the amazing, uplifting work that they do, without having to worry about where and how they will get diapers.”

Jake’s Diapers partners with several NGOs; one of them is Real Hope for Haiti. Located in a remote mountain village northeast of Port au Prince, Real Hope offers medical care to individuals living in extreme poverty.

“Malnutrition in young children is serious and causes many health problems.  Among them are anemia and sepsis, a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. Malnourished children’s bodies are so weak, they can’t even produce a fever. It is a challenge identifying that they are septic.” says Lorraine Zachary, Development Director of Real Hope for Haiti.  “Diarrhea is a constant challenge with malnourished children due to a myriad of health issues and complications. Our greatest priority is preventing cross-contamination with the other children.”

Cloth diapers are a proven solution to consistently prevent the spread of diarrhea, improving basic sanitation and hygiene.

Children’s Health Ministries is another Haiti-based organization that partners with Jake’s Diapers. Their work focuses on pregnant women, infants and children to create a healthier living situation, beginning with education all the way through treatment for malnutrition.

“Of the children and families we see in our clinic, much of the malnutrition and disease has roots in diarrhea,” says Mickey McRoberts, co-founder & Executive Director of Children’s Health Ministries. “Chronic mild diarrhea will contribute to malnutrition and other health problems. Acute onsets of diarrhea also kill many children. We have many families, perhaps as high as 80 to 90 percent that have lost children.”

These deaths are preventable with proper education and resources.

However, with limited financial resources, these families, just like Duymay’s, struggle to afford food, much less diapers.

The clinics at Children’s Health Ministries and Real Hope for Haiti provide mothers the tools they need to increase their odds of preventing diarrhea, malnutrition and other disease. They educate parents on hand washing, sanitation, diapering, and additional hygiene.

With the help of Jake’s Diapers, parents will have adequate diapers for their newborns, as opposed to makeshift diapers or none at all. Diapers are required to be able to access medical care.

“We require diapers but don’t have the funding to provide them for patients. It is a burden on our families to pay for diapers.” Mickey said. “Due to the volume of people we see on any given day, families may need to purchase many diapers to last an entire day of sitting at clinic waiting to be seen. This is definitely a financial burden.”

Disposable diapers are typically sold one at a time, and cloth diapers have a higher start up investment but much lower lifetime expense.

12 cloth diapers can diaper a baby from infancy through potty-training, meaning these babies can finally have diapers instead of going without. For Jake’s Diapers, the cost to diaper one baby for life in Haiti is 113 USD.

Jake’s Diapers currently has the opportunity to diaper over 500 Haitian babies like Duymay.

CaringCrowd®, a crowdfunding platform proudly sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, has partnered with Jake’s Diapers to raise a total of $50,000, equaling more than 6,000 cloth diapers.

Just $113 will completely diaper a baby like Duymay for life.

“Every donation matters, and small change adds up to great impact” says Bowers, “The supply of diapers is not only life changing, but life saving.”