AMERICA/HAITI - “Humanitarian catastrophe”: healthcare is on the verge of collapse

Monday, 27 May 2024

Port au Prince (Agenzia Fides) - "The escalation of violence in Port-au-Prince and Artibonite, a province north-west of the capital, is plunging Haiti into a humanitarian catastrophe. The health system is on the verge of collapse," says the representative of the United Children's Fund Nations (UNICEF), Bruno Maes. "The serious emergency concerns not only the medical care of the children, but also the essential goods for their treatment and nutrition," he stressed in a recent statement. In Haiti, only six out of ten hospitals are operational. Containers of aid have been blocked or looted, as have many warehouses and pharmacies. "Violence, mass displacement, epidemics and increasing malnutrition have devastated the Haitian health system, (see Fides, 10/5/2024), but the blockage of supply chains further worsens the desperate humanitarian situation." According to the United Nations humanitarian agencies, around 4.4 million people in Haiti - a country of 11.5 million people spread over 27,755 square kilometers - are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and 1.6 million people are facing acute food insecurity. More than 30 medical centers and hospitals were closed due to vandalism, looting or because they were located in unsafe areas, including Haiti's State University Hospital, the largest in the country. The recent reopening of Port-au-Prince's airport after nearly three months is a first step toward lifting isolation, but ports are still blocked. In the first three months of 2024, 2,500 people, including at least 82 children, were killed or injured as a result of gang violence. These figures come from the latest UN reports. Nearly half of the victims were shot in violent attacks on their neighborhoods or in clashes between gangs and police, and at least 438 people were kidnapped for ransom. According to media reports, 80% of the capital and the roads connecting the north and south of the country are in the hands of criminal gangs who spread fear and terror on the streets, in the city districts and at the motorway junctions. About 362,000 people - half of them girls and boys - have been forced to flee their homes because it is too dangerous to remain there, and many of them are staying in overcrowded shelters in schools and other public spaces. Sexual violence and abuse against women and girls have increased and tens of thousands of children are unable to attend school because of the unsafe situation. Added to this dramatic context is the no less reassuring political framework. The nine-member presidential college, which has assumed responsibility for leading a transition process, is slowly moving toward forming an interim government while new elections are organized. The government should prepare the ground for sending an international force to fight the gangs. Initially, one thousand Kenyan police officers and support contingents from the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Chad and Jamaica will be deployed. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 27/5/2024)