Late one April night in 2012, 19-year-old Ilionelle was struggling to give birth at her home in rural northwest Haiti. After several hours, she began having seizures, a clear indication of eclampsia, a severe medical disorder that can lead to the death of the mother and/or baby.
Ilionelle’s situation is not uncommon in Haiti, which has the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western hemisphere with 630 deaths per 100,000 live births. Fortunately, Tilma, the traditional birth attendant helping Ilionelle, quickly identified these life-threatening symptoms and arranged for her transport to Beraca Hospital for emergency obstetric care. After being carried on a stretcher for four hours along a steep and treacherous road, Ilionelle arrived at Beraca Hospital where she safely delivered a healthy baby boy. “If it wasn’t for Tilma, both my son and I could have died,” Ilionelle said.
Tilma is among thousands of Haitians working to improve their nation’s health after recent years of misfortune.