PORT-AU-PRINCE/NEW YORK, June 29, 2021—The Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency center in the Martissant area of Haiti's capital was the target of an armed attack on the afternoon of Saturday, June 26, 2021. While MSF teams cared for patients, armed individuals fired multiple times in the direction of the emergency center.
"There are no deaths or injuries among the occupants of the emergency center, but we believe we can no longer continue to treat the population without endangering our staff," said Alessandra Giudiceandrea, MSF head of mission in Haiti. "As a result, MSF decided to evacuate its staff and patients from the emergency center and immediately suspend activities in Martissant for a week, after which we hope to find our emergency center intact and be reassured about the safety of our teams and our patients."
This was the first time such an attack occurred on the emergency center, but the lack of safety for staff and patients has become extremely concerning in recent weeks, Giudiceandrea said. Since the start of the clashes between the armed groups in the area in late May, MSF had to reduce its activities and its staff in Martissant because armed conflicts took place near the emergency center. During these episodes, medical personnel had to protect themselves from stray bullets. In early June, armed individuals robbed two staff in an MSF ambulance along with drivers of other vehicles coming from Martissant.
This increase in the level of violence in Haiti is part of a deeper political and economic crisis that is affecting the population in many ways. The health system is strained by insecurity but also by the increase in COVID-19 cases, a lack of funding and a high level of medical needs.
"At a time when we should expand our activities because of COVID-19 and other needs, we are fighting to keep our structures open despite deplorable security conditions," Giudiceandrea said, adding that MSF hopes to find the buildings of the emergency center intact after the suspension of activities this week.
MSF has been providing medical care in Haiti for 30 years and the Martissant Emergency Center, opened in 2006, is the oldest MSF project in Haiti. In order to continue its activities, MSF asks armed actors in Haiti to respect the safety of health personnel, patients, equipment and medical structures, as well as vehicles and ambulances.
In addition to the emergency center in Martissant, MSF runs a hospital in Port-au-Prince's Tabarre neighborhood treating patients with severe burns or traumatic injuries. MSF also supports maternal, sexual and reproductive health care in Port-a-Piment, in Haiti's Sud province, and provides care for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Port-au-Prince and Gonaïves.