World Breastfeeding Week highlights from Haiti

Rose Mireille Exumé, IYCN country coordinator in Haiti, shares her experience during World Breastfeeding Week in Grand Goâve and La Gonâve Island.

On Thursday, August 6, I was in Grand Goâve, a small city in southwestern Haiti, to participate in the first of several World Breastfeeding Week events. More than 400 people from the community gathered in front of a church along the main road of Grand Goâve for a celebration, organized by our partner, MDM. The organizers shared important information on breastfeeding through singing and dancing and other cultural activities. IYCN assisted by providing posters and other communications materials with key breastfeeding messages.

The crowd gathers to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week in Grand Goâve.

One of the highlights of the celebration was a ten-minute play spotlighting the importance of good breastfeeding practices. In the skit, a mother gave birth in the presence of the father, a grandmother, an educated Matrone, or traditional health worker, and a community health worker (CHW). The Matrone and the CHW shared important messages about good breastfeeding practices with the new mother such as early initiation, correct positioning, and practicing skin-to-skin contact.  

Later in the month, I traveled by motorboat to participate in extended World Breastfeeding Week activities on La Gonâve Island, an underserved area about 30 minutes northwest of Port-au-Prince. The Ministry of Health held a community event in the town of Anse-a-Galets on Sunday, August 16. Participants included members of the Ministry of Health, regional coordinators, community leaders, and hundreds of people from the community. Mothers representing nine different mothers’ support groups spoke to the crowd about their positive experiences with breastfeeding. Earlier in the week, I had joined partners from the Ministry of Health and World Vision to venture across the island to select one advocate from each of the island’s nine mothers’ support groups to speak at the event. 

Rose Mireille Exumé with a baby at the World Breastfeeding Week celebration on La Gonâve Island.

After their speeches, we selected one mother to be the ambassador of breastfeeding for all of La Gonâve Island. We chose Michelene Ineus, a 25-year-old mother who has two children including a 5-month-old baby who she is currently exclusively breastfeeding. When asked what she would do as the ambassador of breastfeeding, Michelene said she would speak with a wide range of organizations and mothers on the island to make sure they know breastfeeding is advantageous for the mother, baby, father, country, and society.

I am especially proud of Michelene because she was the representative from one of the support groups I visited, and she integrated the messages we shared with her earlier in the week. She eloquently conveyed the messages in her own words and remembered all of the important information.

These events were very important because they sensitized the community to exclusive breastfeeding practices and highlighted the role of the whole community: the mothers, the fathers, and the leaders. The community must be involved to sustain the work that the government and other partners are doing to improve nutrition.

Learn more about IYCN activities in Haiti.

Photos: Rose Mireille Exume