Médecins Sans Frontières closes hospital amid rising violence in Haiti

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Protesters set tyres alight in Hinche on February 11, 2019.
Image: Voice of America.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) — also known as Doctors Without Borders — announced Wednesday they were temporarily closing their hospital in the Cité Soleil district of Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince, citing rising gang violence such that they are "no longer able to guarantee the safety of patients or staff".

The week prior, heavily armed groups increased their territory to include parts of Port-au-Prince and nearby towns, with stray bullets entering and clashes "just metres" from the hospital complex, and forcing schools to close.

In a statement, MSF medical adviser Vincent Harris said: "While the hospital has not been targeted, we are a collateral victim of the fighting since the hospital is right on the front line of the fighting. We realize that closing the hospital will have a serious impact on the people of Cité Soleil, but our teams cannot work until security conditions are guaranteed."

However, field communication manager Alexandre Marcou emphasised that MSF "are not leaving Haiti", and planned to redouble aid if necessary and safely possible.

Haiti's gang violence has worsened since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021, with murder, kidnapping and sexual violence reported in order to "terrorise" residents. In November, the United Nations (UN) reported gangs controlled 60% of the capital.

Haiti’s acting prime minister, Ariel Henry, last year called for an international force to help restore order. Whilst supported by the UN and United States, US efforts have stalled as no other country has agreed to "a non-UN mission led by a partner country".

A hospital supported by MSF south of Port-au-Prince closed earlier this year after a patient was killed leaving the emergency room.