Haiti: Ambulance attack forces MSF to suspend activities at Turgeau

The indefinite suspension will allow for an analysis of the attack on Turgeau Emergency Center and a reevaluation of risks for staff and patients.

Staff load a patient onto an ambulance at MSF's Turgeau Emergency Center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

MSF's Turgeau Emergency Center in Port-au-Prince | Haiti 2022 © Johnson Sabin

PORT-AU-PRINCE, December 14, 2023—Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is indefinitely suspending all activities at Turgeau Emergency Center, one of the medical facilities where it operates in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after a group of armed men stopped an MSF ambulance and seized and killed a patient.

At about 4 p.m. on December 12, a severely wounded man was admitted to MSF’s Turgeau Emergency Center, near the center of Port-au-Prince. The patient’s condition was critical, and the medical team decided to transfer him to another hospital where he could receive the necessary specialized care.

Around 5:30 p.m., a convoy of two ambulances left the emergency center for two patient transfers. A few meters outside the center, however, a dozen armed individuals appeared from a side street and blocked the convoy. They beat on the hood of the ambulance and fired shots in the air. They looked inside the first ambulance and ordered the second ambulance to return to the Emergency Center. They took the patient from the first ambulance by force. They beat him and shot him several times. When he was dead, they fled the scene.

MSF staff treat patients at Turgeau Emergency Center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Bullet-wounded patients are treated at the Turgeau Emergency Center after armed confrontations broke out in Port-au-Prince in March.
Haiti 2023 © Alexandre Marcou/MSF

“We need a minimum of safety to carry out our medical mission," said Benoît Vasseur, MSF head of mission in Haiti. "We can’t work if our medical mission is threatened by violence. MSF is one of the very few international organizations delivering medical care in the capital. We can’t accept that our ambulances are attacked, and our patients are beaten and killed. To carry out our work, our medical facilities, our staff, and our patients must be respected.”

“We can see that Haitians are desperate and furious,” Vasseur said. “They are subjected to terrible cruelties on a daily basis. We are direct witnesses of it: rape, torture, murder attempts. All our medical services are here to provide care to people in this midst of this violence.”

MSF unfortunately has to announce the indefinite suspension of all activities in its Turgeau Emergency Center, to allow for an analysis of the attack, and the reevaluation of the risk for its staff and patients.

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Open since 2021, MSF's Turgeau Emergency Center normally provides care for patients with urgent medical conditions, such as following traffic accidents and other emergencies. After stabilizing patients, the emergency center refers or redirects patients to other care facilities if necessary.

MSF continues to offer free, high-quality health care in its other facilities in Port-au-Prince: MSF's hospital in Cité Soleil, its hospital in Tabarre (providing trauma and burns care), and a clinic for survivors of sexual violence in Delmas 33, Pran Men’m. Our mobile clinics continue to work in different areas of the city and in camps for displaced people. In the south of the country, the maternity clinic in Port-à-Piment remains open as well.

MSF is an international, medical, humanitarian organization that delivers medical care to people in need, regardless of their origin, religion, or political affiliation. MSF has been working in Haiti for over 30 years, offering care for patients with general health needs, traumatic injuries or severe burns, maternal health care, and comprehensive care for survivors of sexual violence.