Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Haiti and its brave new souls

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It may be all a bit PC these days to remember there are worse off people in the world than ourselves.

Nevertheless, it is true. I was recently, once again, attempting to explain to my husband how annoyed I was about my last birth - the birth of my daughter.

It is a topic that galls me still. But my husband is also annoyed at the topic - because, as he reminds me, giving birth is really, at the end of the day, about a healthy mother and child rather than about a woman whose unrealistic dreams of a natural birth were followed to the letter.

So true. And my tales of annoyance certainly paled even further later on when I chanced upon some stories of the conditions of Haitian women, 7000 of whom will be trying to bring new life into their shattered world in the coming month.

Even before the earthquake struck, Haiti had the highest rate of maternal and infant death, as well as the deaths of children under the age of five, of any country in the Western Hemisphere.

Some 670 Haitian women out of every 100,000 die in childbirth each year, compared with roughly nine in New Zealand.

According to news reports still spilling out of the devastated country, there were 63,000 pregnant Haitian women when the earthquake struck on January 12.

Some 15 per cent of those are expected to suffer life threatening complications in their eventual birthing process.

Aid agencies are struggling to cope with keeping any pregnant women safe and well. They are also being inundated with sick newborns.

Already a country struggling to meet basic needs, a new generation of Haitians face dire circumstances indeed.

Mothers - unable to access powered milk or enough food to produce breast milk, have swamped hospitals attached to makeshift camps for the million or so citizens made homeless by the disaster.

They come because they can't feed their babies, but their newborn babies are also the victims of vicious diarrhoea, caused by dirty water they are fed when circumstances become desperate.

And there may well be even more newborns to deal with several months down the track, if reports of widespread rape and molestation in the ramshackle campsites are true.

And all this misery is leaving aside the thousands upon thousands of people grieving the loss of their little ones in the aftermath of the quake, including the two little girls of the Rejouis family from Nelson, New Zealand.

Women throughout the world birth and care for children. Would that a little our comfort and security in our birthing system be afforded places like Haiti, where women have so little.

On the web:
- Giving life in a land overflowing with pain - New York Times
- Newborns with nowhere to go -

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Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

Read more by Dita De Boni

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