Haiti is facing a major health disaster

MSF responds to 'extremely concerning' cholera outbreak amid dire conditions.

Haiti 2022 © Alexandre Marcou/MSF

Port-au-Prince, October 21, 2022For the past week, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in Port-au-Prince have received approximately 100 patients every day at its cholera treatment centers throughout the capital, announced the international medical humanitarian organization on Friday.

The resurgence of cholera in Haiti, confirmed on October 2 by government health officials, is extremely concerning in a country facing an already appalling health and humanitarian situation which continues to deteriorate, said MSF, which runs four cholera treatment centers in Turgeau, Drouillard in Cité Soleil, Champ de Mars, and Carrefour, with a total capacity of 205 beds. Faced with an explosion of violence and a fuel shortage, people are struggling to access clean water and health care.

"Unsafe water is one of the main causes for the spread of cholera, so a lack of clean water as cholera resurges is disastrous,” said Auguste Ngantsélé, MSF’s medical coordinator in Haiti. “Without drinkable water, treatment, and good waste management, the risk of a spike in the number of cases is very high. This needs to be addressed urgently.”

For several days now, the vast majority of the hospitals in the city, which, like MSF, depend on generators to operate, have been forced to reduce their services and may have to close their doors because of longstanding fuel shortages.

"We are facing the same situation as other hospitals in Port-au-Prince,” said Mumuza Muhindo, MSF's head of activities in Haiti. “We will not be able to operate our medical facilities for more than a few weeks if we do not have access to fuel. In addition, medical equipment, which we also need to continue to treat cholera cases and provide care, is currently blocked at the port."

Access to hospitals and health facilities is a constant challenge in the Haitian capital; it is often very difficult to reach a health care facility that can provide the needed treatment. MSF witnesses this situation every day through its medical activities, whether it be for the care for trauma patients, victims of burns, vital emergencies, or for sexual violence survivors.

Last week a pregnant woman who came to MSF’s hospital in Cité Soleil needing an emergency caesarean died before teams could safely transfer her to have the surgery at another hospital.

"Whether it's due to insecurity on the roads, or to health structures not functioning anymore, events like this happen every day in Port-au-Prince,” said MSF doctor Dr. Luxamilda Jean-Louis. “The situation is so volatile that it can change from one day to the next, even from one hour to the next."

In recent days, MSF has increased its activities, strengthening the surgical capacity of some of its projects, and implementing a response to cholera that focuses on treatment, but also on the prevention of infections.

For more than 30 years, MSF teams have been providing free medical care in Haiti and currently run seven projects throughout the country, in the capital Port-au-Prince, in the south, and in Artibonitetreating life-threatening emergencies, trauma cases, burn victims, victims of sexual violence, and providing reproductive care. MSF also regularly intervenes in emergency situations, such as natural disasters. In 2021, MSF teams conducted 25,000 emergency consultations, treated 3,220 victims of violence, and helped 1,560 survivors of sexual violence.