Every Mother Counts Provides Emergency Grant to Midwives for Haiti as Zika spreads

Headlines are delivering almost daily updates about new areas where the Zika virus is spreading, new concerns about mothers and babies and new opinions about how we should deal with this epidemic.

At Every Mother Counts, we’re hearing from grassroots partners in the US, the Caribbean and Latin America, who see the crisis heading their way and Every Mother Counts is responding with emergency support, funding and supplies.

Every Mother Counts is tapping into emergency funds to provide an immediate $7,000 grant to Midwives for Haiti (MFH). This grant will support Zika education and outreach programs through home visits in Cabestor and mobile clinics in 22 other villages. Midwives will provide education, Deet (insecticide) and bed nets to prevent mosquito bites and, when women say they want them, Depo-Provera injections and condoms (donated by Sustain) to prevent pregnancies until this crisis is over. They’ll also monitor Zika’s impact and collect data to help us determine the best approaches to reach our goal of delivering zero babies in the Cabestor area with Zika effects and minimizing the number of babies affected in the Central Plateau.

The CDC remains the most up-to-date resource for comprehensive and rapidly changing information about the virus itself, prevention and transmission, areas where Zika is prevalent and information that’s group specific, like for travelers, healthcare providers and policy makers. Their Pregnancy and Zika page is a must-read for anyone who travels, is pregnant or considering pregnancy and can be summarized with the CDC’s two short lists: “What we know” and “What we do not know.” Zika’s a new disease and “what we don’t know” is the longer list. We’ve condensed it further here:

  • We know Zika is spread through mosquito bites and sexual contact with a Zika-infected man; that pregnant women can get the disease and spread it to their babies and that some infected babies will develop severe birth defects that could include microcephaly, eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth.
  • We don’t know yet how likely a pregnant woman is to develop Zika or a baby to become infected. We don’t know which infected babies will develop birth defects or how their health will be affected in the future.

The CDC considers Zika a public health emergency like nothing we’ve seen before. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention stated in an NPR interview, “This is an unprecedented situation. Never before have we seen a mosquito-borne infection that could result in a serious birth defect. …And we need to do everything we can to protect people, to reduce the number of birth defects and other serious health outcomes from Zika.”

The CDC cautions that the only way to limit this disease’s destruction is to ramp up efforts to battle it on all fronts. They set up an emergency command center in January to coordinate efforts, develop lab tests, conduct studies, monitor and track Zika cases and provide resources to rapidly transport diagnostic kits, samples and personnel to Zika affected areas. The White House responded by providing an immediate $600 million by shifting unused Ebola funds and asked Congress to approve $1.9 billion dollars in emergency funding. Some US states and cities are also beginning to focus efforts on preventing and eliminating mosquito populations and educating the public about how to avoid mosquito bites.

Congress hasn’t approved those emergency funds yet. The latest news is that the Senate signed off on $1.1 billion in emergency aid, but the House has presented its own bill authorizing far less.

While we haven’t seen any mosquito-caused Zika cases in the United States yet, 544 travel-related cases have been confirmed in men and women. More than 150 pregnant women have been infected in the US (plus 120 in US territories) but fewer than a dozen pregnancies have developed complications so far. 109 cases (in both men and women) have been diagnosed in Florida, where we provide a grant to Common Sense Childbirth in Winter Garden, Florida.

Jennie Joseph, CPM, midwife and founder of Common Sense Childbirth is concerned about the families she sees for prenatal care, women’s healthcare and birth services. She says, “Central Florida is a high tourist destination and a jump off point for foreign travel. We must educate the local population about Zika’s risk factors for pregnant women and how it’s transmitted. Many of the women who could potentially be infected are the ones with the least access to accurate information and healthcare.”

As Zika continues to pose a threat to women, Every Mother Counts continues to support communities that are deeply affected. We’ll keep you posted about new solutions, grants and opportunities to help.

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