The healthcare system in Haiti is struggling to meet some of Haitians’ most basic medical needs

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.

A magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the capital, Port-au-Prince, in January 2010, resulting in the deaths of between 46,000 and 316,000 people, and leaving 1.5 million 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.

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MSF's work in Haiti: 2016

Health needs are immense in Haiti. In 2016, access to medical care, already severely limited for most people, was further hampered by repeated strikes in the island’s public hospitals.

There is a shortage of nursing staff and resources in public facilities, and private clinics remain unaffordable for the majority.

Haiti’s health system has been further weakened after the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew at the end of 2016. MSF continued to respond to urgent needs wherever possible, but greater investment is required by the Haitian government and international donors to meet the growing demand.

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Medical care for women

In our Pran Men’m clinic in Port-au-Prince, which provides emergency medical care to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, we treated 787 people, including 438 young women and girls under the age of 18.

In Haiti, sexual violence is a neglected medical emergency and the number of cases is greatly underestimated in official statistics. We are working to improve the availability of services in this field and raise community awareness, emphasising in particular the need for victims to seek medical care within 72 hours of being attacked.

In the same district, MSF runs the Centre de Référence des Urgences en Obstétrique (CRUO). Founded in 2011, the 176-bed centre treats pregnant women with obstetric complications such as pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, obstetric haemorrhage, obstructed labour or uterine rupture. In 2016, the team:

  • carried out 19,077 consultations,
  • assisted 5,594 births (2,176 by caesarean section)
  • and admitted 2,498 babies to the neonatal emergency care unit.
© Fathema Murtaza/MSF

Emergency response to Hurricane Matthew

Our response to Hurricane Matthew was focused on southern Haiti, the worst-hit region. Teams supported Port-à-Piment hospital and ran mobile clinics, treating a total of 17,537 patients, including 478 suffering from cholera.

They also repaired 26 water points and trucked in more than 10 million litres of clean water. In hard-to-reach mountain areas, we supplied building materials to 9,500 families and administered vaccines to 14,000 people.

We decided to maintain a presence in Port-à-Piment, monitoring the health situation there and responding to urgent health needs.

The ongoing cholera epidemic

The cholera epidemic remains a major public health concern, seven years after the disease was introduced to the country.

In 2016, our teams treated a total of 2,615 patients. Many of those were infected in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew and received treatment from us directly in their communities.

Health services in Port-au-Prince

In Drouillard hospital in the capital’s Cité Soleil area we run a severe burns unit which has become the de facto national referral centre for burns patients. In 2016, 43 percent of people treated there were under the age of five. A total of 801 patients were admitted to the unit and 630 underwent major surgery. The teams applied 4,071 wound dressings, conducted 14,030 physiotherapy sessions and 1,773 mental health consultations.

In Tabarre, to the north of the capital, MSF’s Nap Kenbe hospital had to deal with a large increase in the number of patients in the second half of 2016 due to a widespread strike in the country’s public health sector, which deprived a large portion of the population of free medical care.

The 121-bed hospital provides surgery and trauma care. This year, 15,228 patients were treated in the emergency room and 8,088 surgical interventions were performed in the hospital’s four operating theatres. Trauma accounts for more than 90 percent of cases.

The Martissant clinic, now in its tenth year, provides around-the-clock healthcare in a slum area marked by violence. The team stabilises emergency patients before referring them to specialist facilities. In 2016, our staff treated 52,344 patients, including 29,891 with accident-related injuries; of these, 6,984 were victims of road accidents and 3,695 victims of violence.

Find out more in our International Activity Report

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