Maternity Hospital: Refugio Belen

In downtown Chindandega exists the Infants and Maternity hospital which is a public hospital housed in a 140 year old building. Across the street is a public park where many pregnant women were discovered sleeping on park benches and begging for food while they waited to enter the hospital to have their babies.

These were the poorest of the poor who had sometimes traveled for one and half to two days walking and by bus to reach the hospital. When they arrive they are not admitted to the hospital until they are within 8 hours of giving birth. They cannot go back home to wait and so they end up in the park.

A small house was donated to begin a shelter for them called “Refugio Belen.” Here the pregnant women are housed in beautiful facilities with beds, showers, food, etc. There is a full time staff including a nurse. A physician comes every day to exam them while they wait to go to the hospital.

While waiting they are taught sewing and other skills and they are taught how to tend to the health of themselves and their babies. These women are illiterate and have no concept of germs and hygiene. Due to the lack of food, bad water, and diseases caused by living with dogs, pigs and other animals and their waste material; the mortality rate for children in Nicaragua under the age of five years is 53%.

After their delivery at the hospital they return to the refuge until they are ready to return home. They are each given a Rotary layette bag with baby supplies before leaving the shelter with instructions in how to care for their babies. (See section on layette bags.)

Additional facilities were added which included 12 new beds with three new bathrooms with showers with a grant from the Woods Foundation from Iowa that was secured by Iowa Rotarians. The refuge now has a capacity of 36 beds. Over 1200 women pass through Refugio Belen each year and there have been no deaths among these women or their children.