Stray bullets inside the hospital. Tires around the front door. Children who die because instead of receiving treatment they are waiting for the shooting to happen in a safe room. Patients wounded by gunshots while trying to reach a medical consultation. The violence in Haiti is not coming to an end. And when it seems that it is impossible for things to get worse, armed gangs take over one of the entrances to the Hospital de Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince, which was one of the few safe places in the capital for the more than 300,000 inhabitants of the commune. .
“A few days ago they surrounded the area with tires,” explains Alexandre Marcou, communications manager for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) from another of the country’s headquarters. “We have seen scenes of war and now the patients are in danger in our own facilities,” he narrates with concern. Although the closure announced this Thursday is a temporary measure, the reopening and return to work of the 300 toilets on staff is as uncertain as the situation on the streets. From now on, only a private hospital center operates in the commune.
“We are on the front line of fire,” Vincent Harris, an MSF doctor, said in a statement on Thursday. “We are aware that the closure will seriously harm the inhabitants of Cité Soleil, but our teams will not return to work until the appropriate security conditions are guaranteed,” he adds.
The team of Doctors Without Borders, present in Haiti for more than 30 years, has spent months warning about the increase in violence in the country. About ten kilometers from Cité Soleil, in the center of Port-au-Prince, the number of victims receiving gunshot wounds at the emergency center in Turgeau has multiplied tenfold. However, they regret that, despite the high numbers, there is a strong underreporting. “It is difficult to say how many injured there are in other parts of the city, because some people are terrified and prefer not to leave their neighborhoods. There is not a single neighborhood in the city at this time that is free of the effects of violence,” said Dr. Freddy Samson, head of MSF’s medical activities, in the statement.
“In the last week, although the medical team has not been the target of the confrontations, we have been collateral victims,” Marcou explained by phone. “In these conditions, doctors spend a lot of time in security rooms because they have seen bullets pass by. The same thing has happened with several patients. A child who needed oxygen died because he could not be provided in those spaces; a 70-year-old man was shot entering the hospital… We cannot work like this”.
The organization’s teams continue to care for victims of violence and patients with burns in the commune of Tabarre, in Port-au-Prince, victims of sexual violence at its Delmas 33 clinic —also in the capital— and in the central department of Artibonite, to the victims of serious accidents at its emergency center in Turgeau, to pregnant women and their babies in the South department, and to populations affected by urban violence through mobile clinics.
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