Armed clashes continue to affect communities in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. While maintaining functioning medical structures during these clashes is a challenge, with kidnappings and armed robberies rampant across Port-au-Prince, we have continued to provide trauma care. Our teams treat people with gunshot and stab wounds, severe burns, and victims of road accidents in several medical facilities across the capital.
MSF offers free and quality medical care 24 hours a day, seven days a week at health centres across Port-au-Prince, the Sud department, and Artibonite.
We provide sexual and reproductive care and care to victims of trauma and victims of sexual and gender-based violence. With natural disasters regularly occurring in the country, the emergency response remains a central aspect of our work in Haiti.
The prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is a continuing concern in Haiti. We support multiple health facilities in providing care dedicated to victims of SGBV that includes medical, psychological, and social care. The introduction of a free telephone helpline has decreased barriers to care, offering victims remote psychological support and referrals to health centres.
Sexual and reproductive care remains an essential area of activity for our teams in Haiti. We are providing women with proper prenatal and neonatal care to continue our work on reducing the maternal and infant mortality rate. We also provide recreational and educational activities to promote family planning and sexually transmitted disease prevention and management.
With enduring armed clashes and frequent natural disasters, our teams conduct emergency operations in Haiti. Water and sanitation support is provided to communities affected by the violence in Port-au-Prince. After an earthquake in August 2021, we provided emergency care to victims that included surgery, water and sanitation support and mobile clinics to rural areas.
Our activities in 2021 in Haiti
Data and information from the International Activity Report 2021.
As well as assisting people affected by violence in the capital, we sent teams to support survivors of an earthquake in the south and people injured in a fuel truck explosion in the northern town of Cap-Haïtien.
Violence and insecurity
A high level of chronic violence, including armed clashes, robberies and kidnappings, affected people throughout the capital, Port-au-Prince. Entire neighbourhoods were under the control of different armed groups, with shifting territories. The president was assassinated at his home on 7 July.
At our trauma hospital in the city’s Tabarre neighbourhood, we provided surgery and follow-up care for patients with life-threatening injuries from gunshots, stabbings and traffic accidents. We sometimes received many wounded patients at once and temporarily expanded the hospital’s bed capacity.
In February, clashes between armed groups made it unsafe for us to continue working at our Drouillard hospital in Cité Soleil, the main facility for burns in the country. We closed all but the emergency department and moved our programme and patients into the Tabarre hospital, effectively merging two hospitals into one.
In May, a staff member of our Tabarre hospital was attacked and shot dead on his way home from work, even though he did not resist his attackers.
In June, our emergency centre in Martissant was targeted by gunfire after weeks of intense clashes between armed groups. It was the first time that our facility had come under such an attack in its 15-year history, and we decided to close it because we could not ensure the safety of our staff and patients.
In August, we opened a new emergency centre in Turgeau, another district of Port-au-Prince, running similar services. In late 2021, we also started supporting the emergency room of a public hospital in Carrefour to improve access to care in the southern part of the capital.
As of August, an estimated 19,000 people had fled their homes due to armed clashes*, and were staying with relatives or in poorly adapted collective sites, such as schools or churches. We offered medical care to people affected by violence and insecurity through mobile clinics in displacement sites and other locations, and we improved water and sanitation facilities.
We continued to run our comprehensive care programme for survivors of gender-based violence and intimate-partner violence in our clinics in Port-au-Prince and Artibonite department. We also trained public hospital staff and worked with local organisations and communities to raise awareness of sexual violence and adolescent sexual health issues.
On 14 August, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the south of the country, killing 2,248 people and injuring more than 12,700 others, and causing widespread damage to infrastructure**. Hours later, a surgical team departed from our Tabarre hospital, reaching Hôpital Saint Antoine in Jérémie the following day. The hospital staff had started to clean wounds, set broken bones and refer patients to the capital by air. Our team joined in the effort and provided orthopaedic surgery and follow-up care for earthquake survivors over the next several months.
We referred some trauma patients who could not be treated locally to our Tabarre hospital and our newly opened emergency centre in Turgeau, and sent teams to support other medical facilities in the affected areas.
In Les Cayes, we provided surgical and post-operative care to trauma patients at Hôpital Immaculée Conception. At OFATMA hospital, which was badly damaged by the earthquake, we temporarily supported staff to manage paediatric and neonatal care in tents.
In Port-à-Piment, the earthquake severely damaged a public hospital where we have been delivering sexual and reproductive healthcare for years. We immediately relocated medical services – first into tents and then into our logistical base – to ensure continuity of care for pregnant women and newborns. In the following months, we started building a new maternity hospital in the community.
In other areas of Sud and Nippes departments, we offered basic healthcare and mental health support through mobile clinics and distributed relief items, including emergency shelters and hygiene supplies. Because the healthcare system was already difficult to access, many patients came with issues and injuries unrelated to the earthquake, such as abdominal pain, gastritis, infections and fever. In several communities where infrastructure was badly damaged, including Baradères, we delivered drinking water and repaired water networks.
In late October, armed groups held up deliveries of fuel from the capital’s main port, creating a widespread fuel shortage. The streets all but empty of motor vehicles, making it difficult and costly for health staff and patients to get to health facilities. Many hospitals and health centres experienced the double blow of a staffing crisis and an electricity shortage, as fuel for generators ran low.
As we introduced emergency measures to decrease our energy consumption, we were forced to temporarily reduce medical activities at our hospital in Tabarre, treating only patients with life-threatening injuries. We quickly installed 84 solar panels to help power the hospital. By December, the fuel crisis had eased, and hospitals, including ours, were able to return to normal operations.
On 14 December, we launched an emergency response to a mass-casualty incident in the northern town of Cap-Haïtien. People had gathered to collect leaking fuel from an overturned fuel truck when it exploded, causing many deaths and injuries. We airlifted some patients to our Tabarre hospital and treated others at Hôpital Universitaire Justinien in Cap-Haïtien.