Haiti: Closed ports and empty shelves amid unprecedented violence

The escalating insecurity in Haiti has disrupted supply lines, leaving medical facilities without critical essentials.

Destruction caused by clashes between armed groups and police in the Carrefour neighborhood in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Haiti 2024 © Corentin Fohlen/Divergence

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, May 21, 2024—Since the end of February, unprecedented violence has engulfed Port-au-Prince, cutting off the Haitian capital from the outside world following the closure of the airport and seaport.

The escalating insecurity has severely disrupted the medical operations of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has not been able to import any supplies since mid-March. The Haitian health care system is even more severely affected, leaving people without essential medical services amidst ongoing violence and isolation. Doctors Without Borders urgently calls on armed groups involved in the fighting and the authorities in charge of customs to facilitate the delivery of medical supplies to the civilian population in urgent need.

If we do not receive our medical supplies in the next two weeks, we will be forced to drastically reduce our operations.

Mumuza Muhindo Musubaho, MSF head of mission

“If we do not receive our medical supplies in the next two weeks, we will be forced to drastically reduce our operations" said Mumuza Muhindo Musubaho, MSF head of mission. "We had to increase our capacity to cope with the influx of patients, but unfortunately, the enormous consumption of medications means that we are currently in short supply.” 

A gunshot victim has an operation in Haiti.
Teams operate on a patient with a gunshot wound to the foot at Tabarre Hospital. Haiti 2024 © Réginald Louissaint Junior

Health care access rapidly shrinking

More than 30 medical centers and hospitals have shut their doors, including the biggest, L'Hôpital de l'Université d'État d'Haïti, due to vandalism, looting, or being located in insecure areas. The closure of the airport and ports since February has left MSF medical facilities critically undersupplied. 

“In this emergency situation, customs procedures need to be more flexible, so that the medicines and other supplies can be delivered as quickly as possible,” said Mumuza Muhindo Musubaho. Despite the recent reopening of the airport in Port-au-Prince, there needs to be wider cooperation to speed up the customs procedures.

Trash and wreckage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Bel Air, Port-au-Prince. Haiti 2024 © Corentin Fohlen/Divergence

Vulnerable groups at heightened risk 

While supplies are becoming scarcer for MSF and other medical actors, Haitians face urgent medical and humanitarian needs. People with chronic illnesses, such as tuberculosis and HIV, are at high risk due to the lack of access to medical services and lifesaving medications. Unsanitary conditions in the numerous displaced sites spread across Port-au-Prince heighten the risk of waterborne diseases like cholera

These challenges are highlighted at the MSF hospital in Carrefour, which opened in March in response to the increased violence. Initially stocked for six months, the hospital's supplies have dwindled rapidly due to the surge in the number of patients. "In this context, everything becomes a challenge. Even buying paper for medical reports is a big problem these days," said Jean Baptiste Goasglas, MSF project coordinator. 

In this context, everything becomes a challenge. Even buying paper for medical reports is a big problem these days.

Jean Baptiste Goasglas, MSF project coordinator

Overall, across all Doctors Without Borders projects in Haiti during March and April 2024, our teams provided 9,025 outpatient consultations, treated 4,966 urgent cases including 869 bullet-wounded patients, cared for 742 traffic accident victims, and admitted 99 severely burned patients at Tabarre Hospital, half of whom were children. 

In the current state of emergency, as hospitals continue to close their doors and reduce services, we urge the authorities to ease custom processes and ask all parties to facilitate the safe transportation of material to medical facilities to treat patients.