Political instability, conflicts and natural disasters have led Haiti to become the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
From an auspicious beginning as the first independent nation in Latin America and the Caribbean in 1804, Haiti has been plagued by political violence and natural disasters in the 21st Century.
MSF in Haiti 2014
A magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the capital, Port-au-Prince, in January 2010, resulting in the deaths of between 46,000 and316,000 people and 1.5 million left homeless.
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) first worked in Haiti in 1991. Our work in the country focuses on providing responses to social violence, healthcare exclusion, endemic/epidemic diseases and natural disasters.
Manise, 19 years old
"I was living in Canaan camp with my cousin after the earthquake. I stayed in the tent and prepared food, while my cousin went out to work. One night, I went to collect some water. Two men arrived and dragged me into an empty tent.
"I shouted so loudly one of them left. The other held on to me tightly and hit me many times. It was around 8pm and there were a number of passersby. No one came to help me.
"I had no problems in my pregnancy until my feet began to swell. My health worsened and one day I lost consciousness and woke up in an MSF hospital. I saw the baby next to me but could not remember the birth … I am worried I won’t be able to feed my son once he is too old for breast milk. I am going to offer to do washing for people."
MSF’s work in Haiti: 2014
Five years after Haiti’s massive earthquake, the health system is only partially reconstructed and specialist services remain out of reach for many people.
Drouillard burns unit
Domestic accidents and poor living conditions are the main causes of burns in Haiti, and victims are predominantly women and children. MSF continued to run the only facility treating burns patients in the country, in Drouillard hospital, close to the Cité Soleil slum in Port-au-Prince.
Equipped with three operating theatres, the hospital increased capacity from 30 to 35 beds. To focus on the treatment of burns patients, MSF closed the trauma unit it was running inside the hospital. There were 481 patients hospitalised for burns in 2014.
Emergency services in Port-au-Prince
Responding to more than 45,000 emergencies in 2014, the Martissant emergency and stabilisation centre is a free, around-the-clock resource for people experiencing any kind of medical emergency, caused by violence, accidents, burns or obstetric complications.
There are eight beds where patients can remain under observation and an ambulance service for referrals to appropriate hospitals. MSF’s specialists provide care in paediatrics and internal medicine.
Staff treated more than 25,000 patients with accidental trauma, 13,250 with violent trauma and more than 3,700 people with cholera.
MSF provides emergency services including surgery and trauma-related care around the clock at the 121-bed Nap Kenbe centre in Tabarre, eastern Port-au-Prince. Social and mental health support and rehabilitation through post-operative care and physiotherapy are all available to patients to maximise their recovery after emergency treatment.
Teams responded to more than 9,880 emergencies and performed more than 4,200 surgical procedures in 2014.
Specialist care for obstetric emergencies
Located in the central Delmas 33 neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, MSF’s 140-bed Centre de Référence en Urgence Obstétricale (CRUO) continued to provide 24-hour, free obstetric care to pregnant women experiencing serious and life-threatening complications such as pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, obstetric haemorrhage, prolonged and obstructed labour and uterine rupture.
Following the January 2010 earthquake, MSF constructed a temporary container hospital to conduct surgery in Léôgane, an area that was 80 percent destroyed by the disaster.
The programme has evolved to handle emergencies, focusing mainly on complications in pregnancy and road accident victims. Basic medical care is also provided to pregnant women as well as children under five. In keeping with the plan to shut the hospital in 2015, MSF has been progressively reducing activities at Chatuley since 2013.
In February, a cholera treatment unit that had been running since 2010 was closed.
Four years after cholera’s first appearance in the country, the Haitian health system is still facing a shortage of funds, human resources and drugs.
Many Haitians continue to lack access to clean water and adequate latrines, resulting in regular outbreaks of cholera, a potentially deadly communicable disease.
Outbreaks today can mostly be predicted, yet the authorities remain unprepared. There are insufficient public cholera treatment centres (CTCs) in Haiti and reduced international funding has limited the delivery of medical care and the provision of clean water and sanitation services.
When the number of people contracting cholera spiked in October, MSF set up CTCs in the Martissant, Delmas and Carrefour neighbourhoods of the capital.
Find out more in our 2014 International Activity Report.
At the end of 2014, MSF had 2,159. MSF has worked in the country since 1991.