By Mercedes Alonso
Santo Domingo, August (SEMlac). - Many pregnant women in Haiti take the risk of crossing the border to give birth in Dominican hospitals.
This situation has been covered by the media and social networks. El Nacional newspaper said on August 25 that a military plan has been developed to keep these women under control.
Last May 17, El Nacional quoted Dr. Nelson Rodríguez, director of the National Health Service (SNS), as saying that the Dominican government is investing over five billion pesos (around 106 million dollars) on medical care for Haitian pregnant women who are brought into the country by mafia groups.
The Dominican Republic exhibits the fourth highest maternal mortality rate in the region (119 deaths every 100,000 live births), according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). It is only preceded by Bolivia, Haiti, and San Kitts & Nevis.
Dominican Health Minister Altagracia Guzmán indicated that around 30 per cent of the women dying of delivery-related complications in the country are undocumented Haitians.
"They are mainly affected by high-blood pressure, hemorrhage and sepsis," she added.
"We have established a commission to identify the causes of death of these women and conduct medical and social audits," she said.
"Local authorities cannot leave them unattended, although this certainly increases national expenses," she concluded.
Health care, a universal right
While Rodríguez recognizes that health care is a universal right, the current situation is really difficult to manage.
"A couple of months ago, a hospital in Santiago, for example, had 10 Haitian pregnant women requesting hospitalization on the same day and at the same time," he recalled.
"The facility did not have the capacity to admit them and referred them to another hospital," he remarked.
"Around 90 per cent of deliveries at hospitals on the border involve Haitian women. We have asked the Armed Forces and the General Migration Division to further increase access control," he emphasized.
An old, controversial issue
On February 25, 2016, the former Brigadier General of the Army in the Dominican Republic told El Nacional that mafia groups were regularly bringing Haitian pregnant women and children to the country.
Last June 9, MPs and senators discussed the issue and announced that the Dominican government was spending 5.2 billion pesos (over 112 million dollars) a year on medical care for Haitian women.
Dominican Liberation Party senator Manuel Güíchardo indicated on August 24 that there is an urgent need for coordination between the national Migration Division and the Ministry of Public Health to address this situation.
Facebook and Twitter have disseminated information on the daily crossing of buses packed with Haitian pregnant women. They plan to give birth at Dominican public hospitals with the hope that their children acquire Dominican nationality.
"Over 20 per cent of the budget of the Dominican Ministry of Public Health goes to medical care for undocumented people," the networks said.