Reports indicate that Médecins Sans Frontiers (M.S.F.), also known as Doctors Without Borders, has been forced to close its hospital in Cite Soleil due to the grave risks posed to staff and patients. Following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021, Haiti has seen a sharp rise in gang violence and armed conflict.
According to a statement released by M.S.F. on Wednesday, the organisation has been forced to close its hospital in Port-au-Prince due to the escalating risks posed by the ongoing violence. Stray bullets have been hitting the hospital with increasing frequency, making it nearly impossible for patients to receive care. M.S.F. officials have also reported that heavily armed rival groups are engaged in violent clashes just meters away from the hospital, creating a warzone-like atmosphere. Vincent Harris, M.S.F.’s group adviser, described the situation as “intolerable,” stating that while the hospital has not been targeted, it has become a collateral victim of the ongoing conflict. M.S.F.’s teams cannot continue to work until security conditions are guaranteed.
In regard to this collateral damage, M.S.F. also stated that the entirety of Port-au-Prince is plagued with violence, and residents are “living in dire conditions and with limited access to clean drinking water”. M.S.F.’s medical activity manager, Dr. Freddy Samson, said in a statement that “it’s terrible to see the number of collateral victims of these clashes. It’s hard to tell how many people are wounded in total across the city because many people are too terrified to leave their neighborhoods.”
Furthermore, the Eagle Tribune reported that Cite Soleil has been treating not only rape and gunshot victims, but also those infected with the deadly waterborne disease cholera that has resurged in the country.
This hospital closure will have a devastating impact on the country and its healthcare system. It is clear that this has turned into a critical humanitarian crisis, as Haitian institutions are failing the country. At this rate and escalation, Haiti cannot afford to lose any more international aid.
In November, the United Nations reported that armed gangs controlled 60% of Port-au-Prince by terrorizing residents through murders, kidnappings, and sexual violence. In response, Al Jazeera stated that last year that “Haiti’s acting prime minister, Ariel Henry, appealed for an international armed force to be deployed to Haiti to restore order and quell the violence”. This led to protests as many Haitian citizens criticised international intervention and called for Henry to step down. Aljazeera also reported that despite this, the U.S. and Canada have “issued a string of sanctions against Haitian officials and others accused of helping the gangs destabilise the country and engage in illicit activities, including drug trafficking”.
Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly expressed that “we have been clear that Canada was not going to stand by idly as the gangs and their supporters continue to terrorize vulnerable populations in Haiti with impunity,” and that Canada will “continue to increase its pressure by imposing corruption sanctions against Haitian elites”.
Without healthcare, Haiti is at risk of plunging into a deeper humanitarian crisis that it might not be able to recover from. The international community must reassess this escalating crisis. Military aid should be heavily considered due to the circumstances. It is essential that the international community takes swift and decisive action to address this escalating violence before the situation deteriorates beyond repair. At this point, collateral damage is too much to ignore and the international community needs to act.