June 13, 2024

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Haiti: Healthcare Navigates New Heights of Conflict in Port-au-Prince

The violence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, has seen a new and dramatic increase since Feb. 28 2024, with armed groups attacking new parts of the city. This surge in conflict, occurring frequently in residential zones, has deeply affected the community and has seriously disrupted the healthcare system, which is struggling to remain functional.

At Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Emergency Center in Turgeau, in the centre of the capital, the reality of these conflicts is a daily constant, with numerous victims arriving for treatment. “Every day, we see the consequences of this violence,” notes Robin Meldrum, Coordinator at the MSF Emergency Center. “Just last month, one of the youngest patients was a three-year-old boy who suffered a gunshot wound to the neck—a stark indication of how indiscriminate the violence has become.”

Healthcare services in Port-au-Prince are under severe pressure. The main hospital, l’Hôpital Général, is currently inoperable, situated within a conflict zone. Other hospitals are either facing similar challenges or are overwhelmed with the number of casualties, restricting their ability to accept new patients. Even MSF’s Tabarre facility, specializing in trauma and burn care, is often at capacity, forcing it to focus only on the most severely wounded patients.

Roodney works as a motorcycle taxi in Haiti. While he was riding his motorcycle in Delmas 3, a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, he was involved in a serious accident. The security situation has been tense in the country lately, and everyone is on high alert.

The urban environment in Port-au-Prince has transformed drastically, with deserted streets and fortified neighbourhoods becoming the norm as residents try to shield themselves from the violence. This change has led to a notable decrease in emergency visits, with the centre in Turgeau seeing fewer than 40 daily patients, down from 80-100 in previous years.

The insecurity has compelled many, like Maudeline, a local market vendor, to alter their routines significantly. After being wounded by a stray bullet while selling vegetables, she now avoids the marketplace. “I can no longer risk going to the market,” Maudeline shares. “It’s where I earn my living, but my safety is more important. Once I recover, I’ll have to find a way to return safely.”

Amid these challenges, MSF staff like Windy, a health educator, remain dedicated to their roles, providing essential medical and psychological support.

“The city I knew is no longer the same. Our work now involves not only treating physical injuries but also addressing the mental scars left by constant fear and loss.”

Windy, MSF Health educator

As Port-au-Prince confronts these turbulent times, MSF continues to play a crucial role in the community, offering care and support to those impacted by the violence. Their efforts underscore the resilience of both the medical teams and the residents they serve, highlighting the ongoing need for comprehensive support in this crisis-stricken city.

MSF is an international humanitarian medical organization that provides medical care to people in need, regardless of their origin, religion, or political affiliation. Present in Haiti for over 30 years, it offers services in general consultations, trauma care, burn treatment, maternal and childcare, and provides support for survivors of sexual violence and displaced persons.