Earlier this week Haiti was hit by Hurricane Matthew, which destroyed buildings and infrastructure, leaving the south-west of the country largely cut off. Hundreds of people are reported to have died. MSF teams are assessing the needs of affected communities, and have already provided first aid and medical supplies. Here Daan, a doctor in MSF's maternity hospital in Port-au-Prince, blogs about the impact of the storm on the maternity ward...
As I wrote a while ago, the number of babies admitted in our mother and child hospital can be a lot higher during the ‘birth peak’. This peak traditionally (and not coincidentally) takes place about nine months after the February carnival.
And yes indeed, the baby boom has started about 1.5 months ago. A bit early, you might say? True, it’s not yet nine months after the carnival. But since we mostly take care of complicated pregnancies, a lot of the children born in our hospitals are arriving prematurely.
So imagine a full neonatal department. Too many babies in each ward. Too close to each other for us to be comfortable.
From experience we know that the fuller the ward is and the closer the babies are to each other, the more infections are transmitted from one vulnerable newborn to another. Even though we already focus very much on infection control, it’s almost impossible to avoid a rise in infections when we are overcrowded.
And then nature struck.
Hurricane Matthew (not our house mate, epidemiologist Mathieu, but a real tropical cyclone with 230km/h winds and torrential rains) just hit Haiti this week.
Our team is safe, fortunately.
We had strong winds (and some chairs flying around outside our house) in Port-au-Prince, and a lot of rain, but no dramas.
It’s hard to imagine that we could receive even more babies, but necessity knows no law.
But the south-west of Haiti got struck really badly. Matthew destroyed houses and crops, and caused massive flooding.
There may be increased medical needs related to the hurricane in many communities, which the government, MSF and other actors might have to address. We will see what happens.
In the mean time, I'm focused on our neonatal ward. We are now dealing with many more births than usual. As many other hospitals are closed due to the disaster, our hospital, which is usually only for complex cases, is now accepting all pregnant women.
It’s hard to imagine that we could receive even more babies, but necessity knows no law. We have set up some extra cots in a little ward right next to our department in order to be prepared for the night and the next couple of days...
Image shows patients arriving at MSF’s Centre de Référence en Urgence Obstétricale (CRUO) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 20, 2015. Photo by Shiho Fukada for Médecins Sans Frontières