Hanan Waite (B.S. ’08), an inaugural member of the Alumni Association’s“40 under 40” class, leads Earth’s Angels, a nonprofit organization aimed at reducing infant and mother deaths.
By Angela Go
Neonatal nurse Hanan Waite (B.S. ’08), a member of the Georgia State Alumni Association’s inaugural “40 under 40” class, makes saving mothers and babies her passion and profession. Waite is founder and director of Earth’s Angels, a nonprofit organization aimed at reducing infant and mother deaths, one mother and baby at a time.
Born and raised in Ghana, Waite knows about her home country’s healthcare hardships firsthand. Her experience as the mother of a premature infant became the catalyst for founding Earth’s Angels.
Waite suffered from complications during her pregnancy, and her son, Ramzi, was born two and a half months premature. If she would have delivered in her native Ghana, Waite doubts neither she nor her son would have survived.
“I knew right then I had to do something to help in Ghana,” she said.
Hospitals in Ghana, as in many parts of the developing world, are poorly staffed, inadequately funded and often lack essential equipment and infrastructure. Many are government-run and corruption is rampant. Waite cites examples of inadequate care given to patients in these hospitals, such as the multitude of infants who are born with congenital diseases that cannot be properly treated because of the lack of medication and equipment. In most cases, pain medication isn’t available for a suffering infant.
Orphaned as a child and raised by relatives, Waite felt strongly about helping these children. She began her nonprofit with little outside assistance. Personal contacts led Waite to Ridge Hospital in Accra, Ghana, which at the time had a mortality rate of 100 percent among premature infants born under 27 weeks of gestation. She began fundraising to send medical and necessary infant supplies such as oxygen therapy, infusion supplies, diapers and formula.
In the past few years, Ridge Hospital has benefited from Earth’s Angels generosity, and the hospital’s maternal and premature infant mortality rate has improved to acceptable norms. Waite has turned her focus to another hospital, Kaneshie Polyclinic in Accra, which lacks an operating room. The operating space has been sitting unfinished and abandoned for more than a decade.
Before Waite could start fundraising for the project, Kaneshie Polyclinic requested severely needed funds to rewire the electrical system in the labor and delivery room. The electrical system was so unreliable doctors often had to deliver babies by the light of their cell phones. Waite was able to help see the work was completed.
Waite recently moved to San Diego as a neonatal case manager with HealthNet, which provides her with more time for her children and to grow Earth’s Angels. Waite’s goals for Earth’s Angels include establishing the organization in California and expanding awareness of the organization’s work.
“We need to expand our reach,” Waite said.
Right now, her focus is getting the operating room in Kaneshie Polyclinic up and running.
“This hospital serves a population of 350,000 annually, but patients who need surgery must be transported to other hospitals,” Waite said. “The space for the operating room is perfectly sized but not outfitted properly. Once updated, it will save 1,000 lives a year.”