A triplets surprise, 6 months after Haiti’s earthquake
04 September 2022
It is not easy to expect to give birth to one child but then give birth to three, all at once, but that’s what happened to Lisette Joseph, a resident of Les Anglais, in the South department of Haiti.
“I always thought I was carrying only one baby. After the boy was born, I was told there was another. Once at the hospital, I was told that there was still a third one,” she says.
Newborns are certainly welcome, but the family is already large and very vulnerable. “With these last three, we now have six children,” worries Wiscar Leone, Lisette's husband, pointing out that they lost a child last year.
Les Anglais was swept away by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake which caused thousands of human casualties and significant material damage. At least 97 health facilities have been destroyed or damaged, in south-western Haiti, reducing access to health care for nearly one million people.
Six months after the earthquake Lisette's babies were born needing special attention to survive. Luckily, Les Anglais health centre is well equipped to cope.
“We gave the babies adequate care and then we took their measurements, including their head girth and their length. We dressed them and then put on the baby warmer with their towels. We placed the three babies as in the crib of little Jesus,” says Miss Vanessa Chevalier, the midwife who delivered them. They were small and placed on the same table, one after the other.
Les Anglais health centre benefits from the Integrated Health Services for Adolescent Girls and Women (SSIAF) project, funded by Canada and implemented by the United Nations agencies UNFPA, UNAIDS, PAHO/WHO and UNICEF, in support of the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP), and the Ministry in charge of Women's Rights (MCFDF).
Its objective is to improve sexual and reproductive health of women and adolescents and the health of newborns and children in the departments of South and the Grand'Anse.
The health of mothers, newborns and adolescents remains very precarious in South and Grand’Anse, while the provision of family planning has to be improved.
Some 37 per cent of family planning needs in the South and 35 per cent in Grande Anse are not met. Before the earthquake, only 57 per cent of health facilities offered the three barrier, oral and long-term reversible contraception methods.
Only 1.8% of women opt for long-term methods and many women are not informed of the methods available, in particular those allowing them to limit pregnancies. Eight out of 10 women reported not having the options explained by a healthcare professional during their last medical visit.
Launched in 2018 for a period of five years, the SSIAF project aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health of women and adolescents and the health of newborns and children in the two departments.
The Léones are beneficiaries of this project, because they have been made vulnerable by natural disasters, and cannot pay the medical expenses required to save the lives of three newborns at the same time, while taking care of three other children.
Lisette did not go to hospital for pre-natal consultations so was not aware that she was expecting three children. “I didn't know I was going to give birth to so many children. I was frustrated. I've never seen such a thing," she said.
Lisette also gave birth to one of the triplets at home, increasing the risks of child death at birth.
In Haiti, the infant mortality rate is 59 per 1000, one of the highest on the American continent. It is 28 per 1000 and 40 per 1000 in Grande Anse and South departments respectively.
Health workers are fighting to reverse that trend.
UN entities involved in this initiative
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations Children’s Fund
World Health Organization
Other entities involved in this initiative
Agência de Desenvolvimento do Vale do Zambeze
Haiti Ministère a la Condition Feminine et aux Droits des Femmes