MSF Calls on All Armed Groups in Port Au Prince, Haiti to Respect Safety of Civilians

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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Patients recovering in the 4th floor ward at MSF's trauma center. Photo © Kevin Phelan/MSF

Port au Prince/New York, July 5, 2005 – As violent attacks intensify and spread in Haiti's capital Port au Prince, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today called on all armed groups in the city to respect the safety of civilians and allow those wounded during clashes immediate access to emergency medical care.

Since MSF opened a trauma center in Port au Prince in December 2004, medical and surgical teams have treated more than 3,100 patients — 1,112, or more than one-third, for violence-related injuries, including 861 gunshot victims, 126 for machete or knife wounds, 67 for beatings, and 40 for rape. Half of those treated for such injuries are women, children, or elderly.

"It is appalling that civilians continue to bear the brunt of increasing violence in Port au Prince during these past months," said Ali Besnaci, the Head of Mission for MSF in Haiti. "We're treating children as young as 4 and women in their 70s for gunshot wounds. We recently had nearly 30 gunshot victims in one day. And we know that many of those injured are either afraid of or prevented from getting the treatment they need. Some patients come several days after being shot. This is simply unacceptable."



Patient arriving at the MSF hospital in Port au Prince. Photo © Kevin Phelan/MSF

People have been shot and killed, both deliberately and unintentionally, by all of the armed factions fighting in the seaside slums, or "quartiers populaires," of Port au Prince. Some have said they were wounded during operations conducted by the Haitian National Police (HNP) and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

"The number of gunshot victims we are treating has been increasing dramatically these past few weeks," said Besnaci. "And more and more patients have devastating multiple wounds caused by exploding bullets. Civilians in many parts of Port au Prince are struggling just to survive. They fear leaving their homes because it could cost them their lives. Everyday, people throughout the city tell us that they have never experienced such levels of violence before."

In December 2004, MSF opened the 56-bed trauma center at St. Joseph's Hospital in Port au Prince to provide free emergency medical and surgical services to the growing number of people injured by violent acts who had little or no access to care. MSF also offers post-surgical physiotherapy at a nearby rehabilitation center. MSF has been present in Haiti since 1991, mainly providing assistance in the country's provinces or in response to natural disasters, and today also provides primary and maternal health care in Petite Riviere in Artibonite Department and in the Decayette area of Port au Prince.