Group Mobilizes to Help Pregnant and Postpartum People During Maui Wildfires

After the size of destruction brought on by the wildfires in Maui got here into focus Wednesday, the staff from Wholesome Moms Wholesome Infants, a Hawaii-based reproductive well being nonprofit, jumped into motion.

They arrange a 24-hour hotline to help pregnant and postpartum folks displaced by the fires, and are sending breast pumps, toddler method, diapers and lots of different provides to the island from Oahu, the place they’re based mostly. On Thursday, six members of their staff together with nurses, a midwife and a psychological well being supplier traveled to Maui to employees a cellular well being clinic in a transformed van.

Traditionally, the wants of pregnant and postpartum folks have been ignored in disasters and emergency response, leaving grassroots and mutual help teams to fill within the gaps for his or her communities.

Nimble organizations just like the Wholesome Moms Wholesome Infants, which has a staff of all girls, most of whom are folks of coloration and mothers, are springing into motion, whereas the state waits for emergency reduction and volunteers to reach.

“Typically occasions folks in authorities are usually not individuals who have been pregnant or given beginning so it isn’t on the highest of their record the identical approach that we noticed with the COVID response,” stated Tanya Smith-Johnson, a doula, midwife and coverage director for Wholesome Moms Wholesome Infants. It’s why they constructed their cellular well being clinics to achieve pregnant individuals who have been scared to go away their home throughout COVID. “It’s at all times the identical when issues occur. Who is considering girls and youngsters and households and what their wants are? It takes individuals who’ve performed it, who care about folks, who’ve birthed,” she stated.

As of Friday morning, 55 folks have been confirmed lifeless, although that loss of life toll is anticipated to develop within the coming days and 1000’s have been displaced by the wildfires.

The nineteenth spoke with Smith-Johnson to grasp the present wants of pregnant and postpartum folks in Maui, what providers can be found to folks in search of help, and what the remainder of us can do to assist.

This interview has been edited for size and readability.

Jessica Kutz: What are the first considerations that you’ve for people who find themselves pregnant or have lately given beginning with the Maui wildfires?

Tanya Smith-Johnson: I’m a doula and midwife, in order a clinician a few of my foremost considerations are people who find themselves in all probability due, or within the midst of being due, and whether or not or not they’ll have the ability to entry the hospital to provide beginning there.

The hospital is totally bombarded with burn victims. Maui common is already small; it’s already not a sophisticated degree hospital. Individuals usually must get medevaced for extra severe issues. I can’t even think about what meaning in a second like this — I can’t even think about what meaning for people who find themselves in labor and birthing.

Additionally it was already a problem on Maui as a result of lots of OB-GYN practices had stopped taking purchasers. They have been dropping OB-GYNs on the island even earlier than this occurred. Individuals have been dropping their supplier or didn’t have care.

It’s virtually just like the worst excellent storm of all this stuff intersecting and compounding to make it unimaginable. I simply don’t know what hospital beds appear to be. What’s the plan for birthing folks? How are folks even getting there if their homes are gone and their roads are closed, if transportation isn’t obtainable?

So far as folks within the midst of their postpartum — if something goes to occur postpartum it normally occurs six weeks after having a child. Are they capable of see a supplier? Is {that a} precedence with all the opposite issues occurring to of us on the island? Identical with newborns or small infants.

Environmentally, what’s going on with the air high quality? What does that imply for folk who’ve continual sickness on prime of being pregnant or postpartum?

What providers and provides are your group getting out to folks?

We’re taking Haakaa breast pumps for folk that you should utilize with out electrical energy and pump manually. We’re taking storage containers and ice packs, all of these issues for folks to maintain breast milk readily available. Carriers as nicely, so folks can put on their infants as they only work out what’s going on.

We took donations for child gadgets, bottles, chest pads and menstrual merchandise as nicely, as a result of postpartum individuals are nonetheless bleeding. We partnered with the diaper financial institution and provided diapers, and method for individuals who aren’t breastfeeding. Proper now it’s difficult, so a minimum of they’ve a option to feed infants. Additionally bottled water, to make method.

We even have a 24-hour telehealth line that folks can name into.

We’re additionally transport our cellular van referred to as “Mana Mama.” We constructed it ourselves and outfitted it. We took the seats out and it has cupboards, an examination desk and a little bit moveable rest room and labs arrange. We are able to drive to folks they usually can come within the van.

That’s the reason we’re taking it over to Maui to have the ability to do all the identical issues there. If there’s somebody who calls or reaches out to say hey we now have a pregnant mother that must be seen for instance, we are able to go there. The plan can be to see if any of the shelters want something.

Our staff is a multidisciplinary staff, so we now have a scientific element and all of those wraparound providers. We have now a nurse practitioner, and he or she’ll be going as a result of she will be able to see pregnant and birthing folks, but in addition youngsters and the entire household and she will be able to prescribe drugs. We do help folks in abortion as nicely. Our nurse practitioner can do medical abortions and prescribe the medicine. So we are able to see people who find themselves within the midst of that scenario or who’re having a miscarriage who want help too.

It’s fairly dope and wonderful.

One among our midwives may also be going over, in addition to two nurses and one in every of our psychological well being professionals. Our midwives and nurses are lactation consultants who can do lactation visits as nicely. (In complete there might be six folks touring to Maui.) The remainder of the staff might be staying again to maintain the purchasers and manning the 24-hour hotline for the parents that might be there on the bottom.

We’re a tiny however mighty staff doing nice and wonderful work, and I feel oftentimes folks assume we’re bigger than we’re. We do all of the issues. We’re all sporting a number of hats.

What recommendation would you give to somebody who’s pregnant or postpartum and has been displaced or is presently in an evacuation heart?

It is very important advocate for what you want. I do know in moments like this this can be very demanding, and it’s straightforward to freeze and be so overwhelmed we don’t know the actionable steps we have to maintain ourselves. I’m hoping of us nonetheless maintain themselves and don’t let that a part of it fall off within the midst of the whole lot else.

Please attain out to Wholesome Moms Wholesome Infants, we now have all of the issues a pregnant or postpartum particular person might have, and if we don’t do it ourselves, we now have companions that we are able to inform you the place to go. We’re a useful resource hub, and we hope folks make the most of that.

If you’re displaced, attain out to us so we are able to work out what choices appear to be by way of shelter. Or when you want diapers or to see a lactation specialist, or to see one in every of our midwives or care suppliers, we are able to come to you with our van and reduce that burden. Inform us and we acquired you and we’ll determine it out and aid you. That’s what we’re right here for and ready to do. Please attain out utilizing our telehealth line.

The right way to Assist and Assist Maui Wildfire Victims

To achieve Wholesome Moms Wholesome Infants, which is presently staffed 24/7 within the wake of the Maui wildfires, you may name 808-737-5805 or ship an e mail to or by visiting their web site at

Along with supporting Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, Smith-Johnson recommends reaching out to the next community-based organizations in case you are both in want of help or wish to provide a donation:

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