Since mid-2018, Haiti has been in the grips of a major political and economic crisis. In 2019, this led to massive demonstrations that shut down much of the country for months at a time, as streets were barricaded and protesters clashed with the police. Many public medical facilities struggled to keep running due to shortages of drugs, blood, oxygen, electricity, fuel, and staff. Private medical centres were also badly affected and forced to reduce staff or even shut down altogether. During the worst of the violence, medical facilities were looted, and healthcare workers and ambulances attacked.
In the five medical facilities where MSF works in Port-au-Prince and Port-à-Piment, our teams observed the effects of the crisis firsthand. In a rapidly deteriorating situation, we had to deal with an increasing demand for care.
Health services in Port-au-Prince
In November 2019, in order to meet the needs of people seeking lifesaving surgery, we opened a trauma hospital in the former MSF-run Nap Kenbe facility in the Tabarre neighborhood. We quickly expanded its capacity to 50 beds, and in the first five weeks alone, we saw 574 people at our triage. Of these, 150 were admitted with life-threatening injuries, 57 percent of them with bullet wounds.
Our emergency and stabilization centre in Martissant, a slum area severely affected by gang violence, treated 29,452 patients in its emergency room, 2,669 of whom had violence-related injuries. Patients requiring specialist care were referred to other hospitals, including the Haiti State University Hospital, which we supported by donating medical equipment and supplies, rehabilitating facilities, and training staff.
We continued to run the 40-bed Drouillard hospital, the only specialist burns facility in Haiti, which is located in Cité Soleil slum. In 2019, we admitted 580 patients for care and conducted 27,800 outpatient consultations. Because of school closures during demonstrations, we saw a spike in the number of children injured in domestic accidents, for example, while playing too close to stoves. We also treated several patients with burns from street fires or firebombs used by protesters.
In addition, MSF provided support to victims of sexual and gender-based violence in two public hospitals and at our own Pran Men’m clinic in the Delmas 33 neighborhood. In 2019, we treated more than 1,260 patients. The number of patients decreased during the months when the city was on lockdown because insecurity prevented people from seeking care. In Haiti, sexual violence remains a neglected and largely underreported medical emergency.
MSF in Haiti in 2019
A young boy takes part in a demonstration in Port-au-Prince calling for the departure of President Jovenel Moïse on 9 June 2019. For months, Haitians have seen a steady decline in their purchasing power as the national currency devalued and fuel prices increased, against a backdrop of seemingly endless political stalemates and scandals.
Since 9 June, tensions have escalated and there have been almost daily demonstrations and outbursts of violence in cities including Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes, and Gonaïves.
In the southwest of the country, we supported emergency and maternity services, in Port-à-Piment health centre. During the year, our team there assisted 1,070 births and provided family planning services to more than 1,420 patients. We also supported health centres in Côteaux and Chardonnières by donating supplies, training staff, and organizing referrals.
No. staff in 2019: 1,097 | Expenditure in 2019: €17.7 million | Year MSF first worked in the country: 1991