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Meeting Urgent Needs of Women with Young Children in Haiti

Action Against Hunger sets up support centers in Port-au-Prince displacement camps
ACF center for women with young children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, courtesy L. Grosjean.

Amidst the camps for earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Action Against Hunger | ACF-International is establishing multiple centers specifically designed to provide a range of services to mothers with young children, including a safe environment for breastfeeding, as well as medical, nutritional, and psychological support. Four makeshift tents are already operational, and by the time the program is completed, some 5,000 mothers and their infants will receive this specialized assistance.

Action Against Hunger is targeting mothers with children under six months, who are vulnerable to malnutrition, as well as diseases resulting from contaminated water supplies and poor hygiene. Breast-milk contains a high concentration of antibodies and helps protect young children from infection. The feeding centers are also designed to provide a sense of security for mothers and children recovering from trauma.

A woman named Helene arrived this weekend at one of ACF’s breastfeeding centers in the devastated Canape-Vert district of Port-au-Prince. Her baby was born in the street without any medical support and quickly developed conjunctivitis from unhygienic living conditions. Upon arrival, Action Against Hunger’s trained nutritionist performed an immediate medial assessment and provided Helene with clean drinking water, food, and a mat to lie on. With around-the-clock care, Helene’s baby is now recovering and breastfeeding her child successfully.

Before Action Against Hunger established these centers, Chantal, another young mother, scavenged for food and water for her three-month-old baby Cassandra among the rubble-strewn streets of Port-au-Prince. Now, she has a place to rest while she breastfeeds her child and receives additional nutritional support and hygiene instruction.

Action Against Hunger encourages mothers to visit these tents daily, or as needs arise. Soon the centers will transform into nurseries where mothers can play with their children, engage in soothing activities like sewing and basket making, and embark on the long road to recovery.

Action Against Hunger has implemented programs in Haiti since 1985, carrying out emergency measures in the areas of health and nutrition. Since 2001, ACF has focused primarily on food security and water, sanitation, and hygiene programs in both emergency and development contexts in Port de Paix, Gonaives, Anse Rouge and Jeremiah.

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