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West Wickham charity backed by Lady Edith gets boost from UK government

PUBLISHED: 11:37 06 August 2014 | UPDATED: 11:42 06 August 2014

Carwyn Hill in a rural community in North Haiti with Grace, who was suffering from hydrocephalus, where fluid builds on the brain. Picture: Thomas Williams

Carwyn Hill in a rural community in North Haiti with Grace, who was suffering from hydrocephalus, where fluid builds on the brain. Picture: Thomas Williams

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A charity that is supported by Laura Carmichael, best known as Downton Abbey's Lady Edith, has been awarded a grant from the government.

Laura Carmichael in Haiti. Picture: Hunter KittrellLaura Carmichael in Haiti. Picture: Hunter Kittrell

The Haiti Hospital Appeal (HHA), based in West Wickham, has been given £250,000 by the Department for International Development.

The money will go towards helping Haitian women give birth safely, improving the health of thousands of women and their babies.

The HHA launched after CEO and founder Carwyn Hill visited Haiti in 2005.

Carwyn’s trip was the result of a chance encounter with a Haitian pastor who had travelled to the UK and found himself without accomodation.

Carwyn, who was a student at the time, saw a post-it note that he had pinned to a university noticeboard and invited him to stay.

The pastor returned this favour and invited Carwyn and his friends to Haiti, and it was there that they saw the scale of poverty and deprivation in the country.

Carwyn knew he had to do something after he witnessed the death of an 11-year-old girl named Julie, which could have easily been prevented if she had been provided with basic medicine and equipment.

Determined to take action, Carwyn returned from Haiti and got to work setting up HHA.

He said: “Haiti has the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality in the western hemisphere and we’ve seen first-hand the devastating reality of this situation. On my most recent visit to Haiti last month I saw an 18 year-old girl who’d waited for 18 hours to be referred to the hospital we support for an emergency C-section because of a lack of resources and capacity in the region she is from.

“While our team were able to save the mother and resuscitate her baby, the delay meant the baby was left with permanent long-term damage. On a trip earlier this year I saw a mother die on arrival at the hospital we support because she’d come from too far away and had been referred too late. 99 per cent of maternal mortalities happen in the developing world and most of these are avoidable.”

Speaking about the funding that HHA has received, he said: “This new support from the UK government is going to hugely increase our capacity to help identify high-risk women so they can receive the care they need quickly. We will be able to train and support traditional birth attendants, run monthly mobile health units in remote areas, improve ambulance services so people can get emergency help more quickly, and offer better prenatal care and advice to help women stay healthy during pregnancy. The Haitian staff we support work with incredible passion and commitment, many as volunteers, and we will be working in a number of communities where people can’t otherwise get regular healthcare.

“We believe passionately that every mother and baby deserves the right to a safe birth and we will continue striving to prevent the tragic deaths of women, children and babies in easily avoidable situations. There are few greater privileges in life than having the chance to give women and babies a safe birth, and watching them flourish.”

The UK Aid grant will be put towards a number of measures including aiding women to give birth in hospitals or clinics rather than at home and ensuring that a midwifery professional is supporting the delivery and setting up mobile clinics in rural areas offering clinics for pregnant women, check-ups for babies and family planning advice.

Speaking about the funding, Laura Carmichael said: “I was in Haiti when the Haiti Hospital Appeal was developing this important project, and it’s amazing that they can now implement it with the support of the UK government.

“I had the incredible privilege of witnessing first-hand the dedicated work of local community health workers, who work passionately under incredibly tough conditions, in order to provide critical care to some of the world’s most vulnerable women and children in Haiti.

“I also witnessed the tragic reality facing some mothers and babies when the right support isn’t available.

“The level of poverty that the communities involved in this programme live under is harrowing, and as HHA’s patron I am excited by and proud of the incredible impact that this project will have.

“Together, we are looking forward to seeing more mothers and babies receiving safe births in Haiti, a right that all women deserve.”

International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, said: “Four and a half years after the earthquake many women in Haiti are still giving birth in appalling conditions and without the help of midwives, doctors or nurses. Having visited the country, I know that the Haiti Hospital Appeal is a shining example of a London charity making a real difference to people’s lives overseas and I am delighted that our funding will help give even more mothers and babies the high quality healthcare they need.”

For more information about the charity and the work that they do please visit haitihospitalappeal.org

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