The World Health Organization estimates that 830 women die each day from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Largely preventable, a vast majority of the cases are women in developing countries.
Caitlin Haas was determined to take on that statistic. “After the birth of my third daughter, I just felt this urgent need to do something, to help other mothers,” she says.
Haas spent time as pediatric oncology nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. She was also a nurse in the pulmonary unit at CHOP, and she’s the former director of the Safe Birthing Program at the International Women’s Initiative. These days, Haas is heading the 1789 Fund, which she co-founded last year. “A mother or baby’s geographical location shouldn’t dictate whether they live or die,” she says.
The 1789 Fund targets the rural Nepalese district of Nawalparasi, where neonatal mortality rates are three times the national average. Money goes to training nurses and deploying supplies to make birth safer.
“We think nurses are the key to changing
the healthcare system,” says Haas. “You’re not only educating that nurse, you’re educating her fellow nurses because she trains the generations after her.”
With help from the Nepal Ministry of Health & Population, the 1789 Fund is working to equip five outposts with surgical supplies, disinfectants and antiseptics. “They’re very simple and very cheap,” she says. “It’s just a matter of national governments and the international community standing up and making the commitment. Everyone should have a chance at a happy and healthy life.”
Haas estimates that over three years, the 1789 Fund will train over 50 nurses, care for 20,000 mothers and newborns, and educate 32,500 individuals throughout Nepal. Looking ahead, she hopes to expand programming to other regions in need.