Sunday, August 19, 2007

More on Maison de Naissance

I have writen in the past on Maison de Naissance, a birthing center in Haiti founded by a few doctors, including our friend Elizabeth Wickstrom. The Kansas City Star has a wonderful profile:

A few years ago Cindy Obenhaus and a group of Kansas City doctors and nurses traveled to Haiti on a fact-finding mission.

What they found, after visiting hospitals and interviewing hundreds of Haitians, was that the high infant and mother mortality rate was due to three factors — good care was too far away; it cost too much; and even if a pregnant woman could get to a hospital and afford the fees, she didn’t trust the doctors or the family was turned away.

“Those were the three barriers,” Obenhaus said. “So we decided we needed triple therapy. We decided to open a birthing center in a rural community in Haiti. And that’s how Maison de Naissance started.”

In October 2004, Obenhaus, along with a large group that included physicians Stan Shaffer, Elizabeth Wickstrom and nurse-midwife Denise Fryzelka, opened Maison de Naissance in Haiti. It provides medicines, prenatal care, newborn delivery and care, vaccinations, home visits, and community health and HIV assistance.

Obenhaus, a nurse who had been traveling to Haiti on mission trips for years, recently returned to Kansas City after spending the month of July at Maison de Naissance, visiting patients and the Haitian staff of 30 that runs the center 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Mothers can walk to our center,” Obenhaus said. “There are no fees, and we provide U.S. standards of care. We believe Haitian moms and babies shouldn’t have to settle for less.”

Now that the center has been open for a few years, statistics show that Maison de Naissance is making a difference in the lives of these women and their children. From 2005 to 2006, the infant mortality rate dropped from 4.2 percent to 0.4 percent at the center, Obenhaus said. Since opening, only two of the 550 infants delivered have died, compared to what would have been 16 deaths under Haiti’s national neonatal mortality rate.
as far as the mothers go, pregnant women considered high-risk are referred to hospitals, she said.

“That area still has a long way to go because we still lose mothers, who, for example, must go to a hospital and need blood but then there is no blood in the blood bank,” Obenhaus said.

Maison de Naissance is part of a local nonprofit organization called Healthy Mothers-Healthy Babies Foundation, where Obenhaus is program director. Staff and volunteers in Kansas City are online with the center 24 hours a day, and all medical records are kept electronically.

The board of directors for the birthing center is made up of medical experts from Kansas City as well as from across the United States. Many local church groups also raise money and supplies to support Maison de Naissance, including the Diocese of West Missouri Episcopal Church Women’s Mothers’ Hearts for Haiti Campaign.

And as it did a few years ago, this fall a group will return to Haiti on another exploratory mission. They plan to find a location for a second Maison de Naissance in Haiti, and they want to open another one in the Dominican Republic.

“There are so many people giving Maison de Naissance the support and funding and medical advice they need to help these women and children,” Obenhaus said. “And we can look at our records now, and we know we’re making a difference.”

For more information about Maison de Naissance, call 816-812-7100 or go to

Read it all here.

This is a great cause, go to the Maison de Naissance website and make a contribution today.

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