Accessibility links

Breaking News

Haitians See Pregnancies Rise in Quake Relief Camps

Volunteer health workers carry a pregnant woman to the hospital at a makeshift camp set up in the Petionville Golf Club in Port-au-Prince, 19 Mar 2010 (file photo)

Since a January earthquake in Haiti, tent camps have become home to hundreds of thousands of people, including newly pregnant women. Some Haitians fear unplanned pregnancies in the camps may fuel a baby boom in the capital.

Denise Cheristal, 35, knows that she and her teenage son were lucky to escape with their lives from the January earthquake in Haiti. She now lives in a tent camp, where residents are packed together tightly with little access to clean water or health services.

Amid all the other changes, Cheristal says the quake also affected her outlook on the future.

She says her son was nearly killed in the quake and that, without him, she would have no other children. So she and her husband decided to have another child. Cheristal's baby is due in a couple weeks.

Denise Cheristal
Denise Cheristal
More than nine months after the quake, Cheristal sees other, younger women around the city who also are pregnant.

She says right now there a lot of pregnant women, but they may not have planned it like she did.

Around Port-au-Prince, some Haitians express concern about the number of young people getting pregnant without planning for it. Some fear that pregnant women and newborns face major health risks in a city where the quake made resources and public services scarce.

At one tent camp in the Delmas neighborhood, Lifrane Herold runs a small medical clinic backed by a local church. He says, with limited resources, they struggle to offer pre-natal care to about 40 pregnant women there.

Herold says some of the women are nearly ready to give birth, and others are about three to four months pregnant.

Herold pointed out three pregnant women nearby, who are in their early 20s. When asked if their pregnancies were planned, all three women said their babies were a gift from God.

Dinette Delon says she already has one child, and her baby is due in February.

Delon says most women do not want to have babies in the camps, because the living conditions are so difficult. She says the tents are very hot, so she plans to leave the capital and return to her hometown after the baby is born.

Health workers say condoms are available to adults in the camps to help prevent unplanned pregnancies. But some young people admit they do not always take precautions.

St. Louis Jean Reynold, top left, and his girlfriend Vesia Louis-Dour, center
St. Louis Jean Reynold, top left, and his girlfriend Vesia Louis-Dour, center
St. Louis Jean Reynold and his girlfriend are expecting their first child in a few months. He said they were doing nothing to prevent pregnancy, so it was only a matter of time.

Reynold says he was not surprised about the pregnancy, because they sit around all day in the camp and eventually you have an urge to be intimate with your partner.

His girlfriend, Vesia Louis-Dour, says she is worried about how they will care for their child, because neither of them has a job. She said given the conditions in the camp, she had not been planning to start a family.

Louis-Dour says she does not want any more children, because life in the camps is hard enough for adults, let alone a baby.

After her baby is born, Louis-Dour says she plans to investigate different forms of contraception. But she says it may hard to find, as Haiti's health system struggles to rebuild from the earthquake and give assistance to hundreds of thousands of people in need.