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Haiti: Health system near collapse as medicine dwindles and gangs attack hospitals

The entrance at the Fontaine Hospital Center in Cité Soleil area of the Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023.   -  
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Odelyn Joseph/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved


At hospitals and clinics across Port-au-Prince, life-saving medication and equipment is dwindling or altogether absent as brutal gangs tighten their grip on the capital and beyond.

The gangs have blocked roads, forced the closure of the main international airport in early March and paralyzed operations at the country’s largest seaport, where containers filled with key supplies remain stuck.

Haiti’s health system has long been fragile, but it’s now nearing total collapse.

The violence has forced several medical institutions and dialysis centers to temporarily close, including Haiti’s largest public hospital.

One of the few institutions still operating is Peace University Hospital, located south of the shuttered airport. From Feb. 29 to April 15, the hospital treated some 200 patients with gunshot wounds, and its beds remain full.

Even if a hospital is operating, sometimes the medical staff is absent because gang violence erupts daily in Port-au-Prince, forcing doctors and nurses to stay at home or turn around if they encounter blocked roads manned by heavily armed men.

The spiraling chaos has left a growing number of patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses with little to no recourse, with gangs also looting and setting fire to pharmacies in the capital’s downtown area.

At the Doctors Without Borders emergency hospital in Cite Soleil, doctors have been forced to cut its daily consultations from 150 to 50 despite the pressing need for medical care.

MSF itself has run out of many medications used to treat diabetes and high blood pressure, and asthma inhalers that help prevent deadly attacks are nowhere to be found in the capital.

Everyone is allowed to enter the MSF compound, but medical staff do a triage to determine which 50 people will be seen.

A baby suffering of malnutrition will not be treated at the hospital that is prioritizing trauma and gun shot wounds.

On Friday morning, 51-year-old Jean Marc Baptiste shuffled into the emergency room with a thick and bloody bandage on his right hand.

He said police in an armored vehicle shot him the previous day, adding that he didn’t have anything in his hand at the time except for a piece of wood he was collecting in an area controlled by gangs to sell as kindle.

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