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MSF in Haiti, 2006
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Although increasing violence before Haiti’s national elections in February 2006 briefly focused world attention on this poor island nation, violence has ravaged the capital, Port-au-Prince, in waves since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced to leave the country in early 2004. Civilians suffer from clashes amongst armed factions and between armed groups and UN soldiers. Fear, lack of infrastructure and high healthcare costs prevent more than half of the country’s population from accessing basic medical services.
MSF provides free emergency medical and surgical care to people at the 56-bed trauma center at St. Joseph’s Hospital in the Turgeau neighborhood. During 2005, more than 7000 people received emergency medical assistance, almost 2500 of them direct victims of violence. Half of those treated for such injuries were women, children or elderly. MSF also treated more than 100 survivors of rape during 2005 and gave referrals for further psychological care and legal assistance.
The enormous civilian cost of Haiti’s violence caused MSF to speak out in January 2006, calling on all parties to respect the safety of civilians and allow immediate access to emergency medical care. MSF also called on all armed actors to respect the safety of national and international aid workers after a wave of kidnappings.
Responding to specialised needs
“We see about three gunshot victims a day. There are gunshot wounds that would kill someone eventually, but more slowly — maybe their bowel or liver is perforated and there is slow bleeding — where if you operate, you can actually do something to stop them from dying.”
Dr. James Smith, MSF surgeon
Specialised care for patients in need of physical rehabilitation or mental healthcare is provided by MSF in the capital’s Pacot neighborhood. This includes postsurgical rehabilitation for patients with fractures from car accidents, paralysis from gunshot wounds, amputated limbs or those with serious burns. More than 256 patients were admitted for treatment in 2005 and an additional 613 people received outpatient physical therapy. Eighty-seven patients received psychological support.
In one of the city’s most violent areas, Cité Soleil, MSF operates the 75-bed Choscal Hospital and primary healthcare center in Chapi. More than 3000 consultations are carried out monthly, including maternal and child healthcare and surgical consultations.
MSF also works in the communes of Petite RiviÃ¨re, supporting health structures and providing basic healthcare with a special focus on maternal and child health.
Haiti has the highest level of maternal mortality in the Americas, with 523 deaths per 100,000 births. In March 2006, MSF opened the 60-bed Jude Anne Hospital in the capital’s Delmas area. The project specifically targets women living in the most violent parts of the city, who have difficulty accessing appropriate care, in part, because of poverty and violence. Medical care is provided for women with pregnancies presenting dangers to the mother and child, as well as treatment to help prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Emergency obstetric care services are available around the clock. Between March and June 2006, the team performed more than 1200 deliveries and 450 surgical interventions, including 250 caesarean sections.
In June 2006, MSF handed over the activities of its primary healthcare project in the Decayette area to a local NGO. The project had focused on maternal and child health including pregnancy care, treatment of sexually transmitted infections and child immunisations.
MSF has worked in Haiti since 1991.