PORT-AU-PRINCE/NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 24, 2023—Recent security incidents and threats circulating on social media networks are jeopardizing the ability for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to safely provide care in Haiti without putting staff and patients at risk, said the international medical humanitarian organization on Friday.
On the night of February 23, hooded gunmen attempted to break into the MSF hospital in Tabarre. "Unidentified individuals pointed their weapons at staff and banged on the door before attempting to scale the wall to enter the hospital compound," said Mahaman Bachard Iro, MSF’s coordinator in Haiti. Bachard Iro said the individuals then left the premises. "We ask all parties to respect the medical mission we have, even as MSF remains one of the last international organizations still delivering care in the Haitian capital."
On February 22, police blocked entrances and exits to the MSF emergency center in Turgeau and searched an ambulance. Refusing to leave their weapons outside—police entered the facility to check the identity of all registered patients.
A few weeks earlier, on February 7, another incident occurred when an ambulance clearly marked as an MSF vehicle was stopped and searched. Weapons were pointed at the passengers while their identifications were checked, stopping the ambulance for more than 45 minutes before it was allowed to resume its journey.
In addition, two violent clashes between armed groups have occurred since the beginning of the year just a few feet from the MSF hospital in Cité Soleil, resulting in the temporary suspension of consultations and the temporary evacuation of some staff. In the face of these repeated and disturbing clashes, and the fact that the front line between armed groups is getting closer to the hospital, MSF fears that it will no longer be able to safely continue providing medical care to the community.
"It is becoming increasingly difficult to work in these conditions, and the recurrence of these incidents is endangering the safety of our medical staff and patients," said Bachard Iro. "These repeated obstacles to our teams moving around Port-au-Prince to transfer patients from one hospital to another, these violent intrusions into our medical facilities, and the crossfire at the gates of our health care facilities, seriously threaten the continuity of our activities.”
MSF temporarily closed the hospital in Drouillard in April 2022, permanently closed the doors of its emergency center in Martissant in June 2021, and suspended its support for the Raoul Pierre Louis hospital in Carrefour in January 2023 for security reasons.
MSF has worked in Haiti for 30 years, treating all patients in need of care in an impartial manner. We urge all parties to respect the medical mission , including patients, caregivers, hospitals, and ambulances.
In this difficult context, the entire Haitian health system is on the verge of collapse, as many health structures can no longer function properly. MSF also reiterates its commitment to the Haitian people, the main victims of the violence that has torn the country apart for years.
In 2022, MSF teams, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, performed more than 4,600 surgeries, provided 34,200 emergency consultations and 17,800 consultations in mobile clinics, treated 2,600 gunshot wounds and 370 burn victims, cared for 2,300 victims of sexual violence, and assisted 700 deliveries. Since the first case of cholera was reported in late September 2022, MSF teams have treated more than 19,000 people with the disease.