Saving Children, Empowering Mothers
In the midst of Cité Soleil, one of the poorest slums in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, malnourished children and their needy mothers find safe haven at the Rosalie Rendu Center for Nutrition and Health, run by Saint Vincent de Paul nuns and supported by the MSH-implemented Santé pour le Développement et la Stabilité d’Haïti (SDSH) Project . Blissfully unaware of her often-tragic surroundings, 18-month-old Venicia waddles around the center’s kids’ room in her red-and-blue baby-duck outfit, giggling and lighting up the room with an endearing smile. When Venicia’s unemployed and desperate mother brought Venicia to the center five months ago, the toddler was severely malnourished and weighed only 5.5kg (12 lbs). For every 1,000 live births in Haiti, at least 80 children will die before their fifth birthday. Without help from the Center for Nutrition and Health, Venicia easily could have become one of them. The nuns at the center welcomed Venicia and her mother in “a-day-at-home” style of program that includes morning prayers, bathing, vitamins and enriched meals, playtime, hot lunch, and naptime in cradles with a teddy bear close by. The children also receive pediatric consultation and monitoring. The center has the capacity to receive up to 60 children each day.
Support for Mothers and Other Caregivers
To help ensure full recovery of malnourished children like Venicia, the center provides training opportunities for the children’s mothers or other caregivers. The caregivers are taught how to care for their fragile children when they return home at the end of each morning and how to help keep the children healthy. Providing a high-quality, basic package of child survival, maternal care, and reproductive health services including HIV detection, the center has increased its personnel to 40, including 17 medical staff and three monitors responsible for the Empowerment and Advancement of Women program. Through the program, Venicia’s young mother became a skilled and self-confident apprentice who can take care of her now-healthy child. “We praise the Lord and thank the American people for their precious support, helping us to claim victory of life over death,” says the center’s supervising nun. She is deeply moved by the double success of seeing an empowered mother and healthy child leave the center with fresh perspectives.
The Rosalie Rendu Center for Nutrition and Health maintains a solid relationship with the surrounding communities of about 42,800 people. The nuns provide services including high-quality, basic health care for mothers and children, and HIV and tuberculosis detection. Good nutrition, educational practices, and vocational training for needy parents complete the comprehensive care program.