After a devastating wildfire in Maui, residents have relied on jet skis and boats to deliver essential child care items to mothers in need.
The devastating Maui wildfire has brought hardships upon countless residents and mothers with infants too. As people struggle to get basic necessities to survive, mothers in Maui have a completely different concern. Women who were pregnant or going through postpartum were unable to get essential supplies for their babies during the time of dire crisis. According to Good Morning America, the board president of the Pacific Birth Collective, Sonya Niess, came up with an effective solution to this problem.
"We're taking boats and jet skis to deliver crucial items for families to be able to survive," Niess told the outlet. "They didn't have gas to put in their car to drive out or to get to one of the hubs." The Maui-based nonprofit organization which also advocates for birth education and wellness, focused on delivering baby formulas and necessary items needed for childcare which are often unavailable in pop-up locations where supplies are being distributed.
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"The organization has been working to not only get supplies but also support pregnant women who may be close to giving birth. They're 38 weeks and they're supposed to give birth any day, and they don't have a midwife," Kiana Rowley, vice president of Pacific Birth Collective said. "So, we're also working on making sure that people have the support they need, no matter where it is."
"In one shelter, there was a mom who went into labor," Niess continued. "We were able to connect with her and find her housing so when she got out of the hospital she was not going back to the shelter with a newborn and three toddlers and a teenage son."
Another nonprofit organization named Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Hawaii started its 24/7 hotline for would-be-moms. The organization also deployed a five-person clinical team to the island to offer free tests and ultrasounds in its mobile van. "The donations are coming in hot now. We're overwhelmed with them, but we know that that's going to dry up in just a few months, most likely, but these families are still going to be in great need," Niess added. "We know it's easy to move on in life and to just go on to the next thing, but we're in it for the long haul and we need people to remember."
FIRES DESTROY LAHAINA:— José Díaz-Balart Reports (@JDBalartMSNBC) August 17, 2023
"My house is gone. The second [family] house we went to...is gone... It took about four hours for us to evacuate," #MauiFires survivor and mother of three Aubrey Vailoces says.
"We didn't take any belongings... Nothing was saved except for our own lives." pic.twitter.com/60CGG5b2xg
A mom of three, Aubrey Vailoces, shared her dreadful experience with the outlet when she had to ditch her home with her 10-month-old daughter amid the crisis. The 36-year-old Vailoces and her partner somehow managed to scramble out of their home and evacuate with their daughter along with Vailoces' 6-year-old twin daughters and her mom. The family made it safely to their relative's place but unfortunately, their home was burnt down.
The mom was left with no option except to go door-to-door searching for supplies for her infant. "I didn't have any bottles for the baby, and just happened to have formula with me in the car and her car seat," Vailoces said, adding that the stress caused by the disaster contributed to her difficulties producing breastmilk for her daughter as well. "The next day, I went door-to-door around the neighborhood asking if anyone has a baby and if there's a bottle or a diaper." However, the series of difficulties does not end here for mothers like Vailoces.
Maui Memorial Medical Center happens to be the only main hospital on the island and earlier in 2023, Maui's main private obstetrics practice announced it would be no longer providing obstetric care due to "staffing issues, physician recruitment and low reimbursements in exchange for time worked." According to a report by NCBI, natural disasters like hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and tornadoes can have harmful effects on maternal health as well.
Along with NGOs and other residents of Maui, famous personalities like Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson have launched a relief fund for the Maui wildfires with an initial $10m donation, per The Guardian. The fund aims to distribute direct cash assistance to those affected by the wildfires in Maui, which killed at least 115 people earlier this month, destroying the towns of Kula and Lahaina.
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