Medical care, supplies in short supply as gang violence chokes Haiti’s capital

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Fresh gunfire erupted Tuesday in downtown Port-au-Prince, forcing aid workers to suspend urgently needed care for thousands of Haitians.

Weeks of gang violence have forced some 18 hospitals out of business and caused a shortage of medical supplies as Haiti’s largest seaport and main international airport remain closed, aid workers with the Alliance for International Medical Action warned. , a humanitarian organization based in Senegal.

“The situation is really challenging and affects our movement on a daily basis,” said Antoine Maillard, medical coordinator for the Port-au-Prince-based organization.

Gang violence has forced some 17,000 people in the capital to leave their homes. Many are crammed into abandoned schools and other buildings where they often share a single bathroom.

Maillard said aid workers were able to reach one of the camps for displaced people on Tuesday, “but there was too much shooting to provide support.”

He said the health crisis is getting worse. Basic medications, including antibiotics and antidiarrheals, are difficult to find as gang violence has closed suppliers. The limited medications available have doubled and even tripled in price.

That means Haitians like Denise Duval, 65, cannot buy necessary medications or see a doctor.

“My health right now is not good,” she said, adding that she has high blood pressure and often feels dizzy. “From hearing gunshots all the time, my heart beats a lot.”

Duval cares for three grandchildren whose mother emigrated to the neighboring Dominican Republic in search of work. She sends money when she can, but Duval said it is not enough to buy medicine and support the children at the same time.

“We live day to day and hope that something changes,” he said as he sat outside his house and washed dishes in a bucket.

Gunfire still echoes daily across Port-au-Prince, although gang violence has eased somewhat in certain areas since gunmen began attacking key government infrastructure on February 29.

Key roads remain impassable, preventing Haitians like Nadine Prosper, 52, from reaching one of the few functioning hospitals.

Prosper lost the lower part of his left leg in the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake and cannot get the medication he needs.

“I’m still suffering,” he said as he walked back to his house with a cane in one hand and shopping in the other. “When the pain comes, if I don’t take painkillers, that’s the hardest part.”

Haiti’s largest public hospital, the State University Hospital, is among those closed. Located in the center of Port-au-Prince, it has been seized and looted by gangs who also looted nearby pharmacies.

While some private clinics and hospitals are operating, they remain inaccessible to most people in a country where 60% of the population earns less than $2 a day.

It is estimated that gangs control 80% of Port-au-Prince, but “their presence is 100% in the life of the population,” said Carlotta Pianigiani of ALIMA.

The violence forced Prime Minister Ariel Henry to announce last month that he would resign once a transitional presidential council was created.


Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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