PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, November 10, 2021—As tensions and armed conflicts escalate in the Haitian capital, shortages of fuel, public transport and clean water endanger medical facilities and patients, including those run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) the organization said today, calling for fuel deliveries to the city’s medical facilities.
While MSF has continuously reduced its energy consumption through emergency measures, MSF’s trauma and burns hospital in Tabarre was forced to cut back its medical activities last week, treating only patients with life threatening conditions. Tabarre hospital and MSF’s emergency center in Turgeau will run out of fuel for the hospital’s generators in three weeks, unless new supplies are delivered. The MSF emergency center in Cité Soleil will be exhausted in two and a half weeks.
“The medical establishments in Port-au-Prince face the same challenges: no fuel, no electricity, no medical care,” said Jean-Gilbert Ndong, MSF medical coordinator. “We all need to have regular fuel deliveries.”
At Tabarre hospital, MSF is installing solar panels to further reduce the demand on generators. Lack of fuel also prevents many staff from obtaining transportation to the hospital for their shifts. With limited means of transport, teams are constantly adapting so that basic medical personnel can reach medical facilities and then return home.
Almost all public and private health facilities in Port-au-Prince have stopped or limited admissions to only acute cases, or have closed due to similar problems. Further closings are possible as the fuel shortage continues.
MSF normally refers patients to other medical facilities when needed, but it becomes more difficult every day.
“Recently, a patient in respiratory distress came to our emergency center in Cité Soleil, where we stabilize patients and refer them to medical centers,” Ndong said. “We stabilized her and started the referral procedure, but she was refused at four different medical centers where we usually refer our patients – they had stopped admissions due to lack of fuel. Only in the fifth establishment that she was finally admitted. “
Lack of fuel affects other essential goods and services. Food prices have risen sharply and the water supply is threatened. Haiti’s national water agency, DINEPA, announced on Sunday that it was running out of fuel to continue pumping drinking water to many neighborhoods in the capital. More than 265,000 people live in Cité Soleil, which is just one of the areas facing water scarcity, according to official figures.
“Medical facilities, patients and community members all need clean water,” Ndong said. “If we lose the water supply in these areas, we are likely to see an increase in water-borne illnesses and other urgent medical needs, just as medical facilities are at risk of shutting down completely.”
Medical needs remain very high. MSF’s emergency center in Turgeau now accommodates several women in labor per day, even though it is not a maternity hospital, as other hospitals have limited their services.
At the same time, patients may delay seeking care due to the city’s hardships. MSF’s clinic in Delmas 33 for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence has seen fewer patients in recent weeks, and those who arrived said they had to walk for hours in the capital because public transport was not available .