Violence sending shocks around Haiti’s collapsing health system

Armed groups in the capital have strangled supply chains, putting millions of children at risk of disease and malnutrition.

15 June 2024
Haiti Country Office Representative Bruno Maes visiting health center
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, 21 May 2024 – An alarming six out of ten hospitals in Haiti are barely operational as recent escalating violence in Port-Au-Prince has continued to deprive children of critical health supplies and medicine, UNICEF warned today. Every hospital in the country has reported difficulties in acquiring and maintaining essential medical supplies, as international and domestic cargo flights from and to Port-Au-Prince airports returned to be operational only recently, with limited capacity and a significant backlog, as did the main seaport, which was previously in the hands of armed groups.

“Haiti’s health system is on the verge of collapse,” said Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti. “The combination of violence, mass displacement, dangerous epidemics, and increasing malnutrition has bent Haiti’s health system, but the strangling of supply chains may be what breaks it.”

Containers filled with vital supplies have been held up, or were looted, as were many warehouses and pharmacies. Meanwhile, hundreds of containers loaded with humanitarian supplies sit stranded in Port-Au-Prince – including UNICEF containers holding neonatal, maternal, and medical supplies.

Port-Au-Prince, Haiti’s main logistical hub, normally receives and dispatches the consignments of health imports in the country. Now paralyzed by violence, and with over 160,000 of its residents displaced, the city is unable to cover the needs of a population that is concurrently fighting physical trauma and the risk of disease.

Waves of displaced families seeking safety and security, especially in the southern part of the country, are creating additional pressure on local health services, which were barely able to cope with demand before the latest escalation of the crisis. Staff shortages are widespread, with about 40 per cent of all medical staff having left the country due to the extreme levels of insecurity.

Between October 2022 and April 2024, Haiti reported a total of 82,000 suspected cases of cholera. About 4.4 million people in Haiti are in urgent need of food assistance, and 1.6 million people face emergency levels of acute food insecurity, which increases the risk of child wasting and malnutrition. The arrival of the rainy season is expected to worsen the situation, bringing a rise in cases of water-borne disease as well as disease spread by mosquitos, such as malaria.

To respond to the situation, UNICEF and partners are ramping up alternatives to the capital’s import and dispatch hubs. Through secondary import and delivery routes, together with the Ministry of Health, international donors and partners, UNICEF has been able to continue to deliver vaccines, medicines and medical equipment to the children in Haiti who need them most.

On 18, 20 and 21 May 2024, UNICEF facilitated the delivery of 38 tons of life-saving supplies, including health and cholera kits, and other essential medical commodities to Haiti via an European Union Humanitarian Aid-supported and WFP-operationalized air bridge from Panama to Cap-Haitian, where UNICEF and the UN established a new operational hub. But much more assistance is needed.

“We cannot allow vital supplies that could save children’s lives to remain blocked in warehouses and containers. They must be delivered now,” said Maes.

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Media contacts

Maxime Le Lijour
Communication Specialist
UNICEF
Tel: +50939030350,
Gessika Thomas
Communication officer
Tel: +50947503125

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