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Emergency department at Tabarre hospital

Shortages of fuel, water threaten medical care in Haiti

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  • A lack of fuel is jeopardising medical care in Haiti, with some hospitals expected to run out of fuel for generators in two and a half weeks.
  • MSF calls for the urgent delivery of fuel to health facilities in Port-au-Prince, to ensure the continuation of medical services.
  • Transport is affected, with staff and patients finding enormous difficulties in moving between hospitals and other places.
  • The lack of fuel is also threatening the supply of clean water to hundreds of thousands of people.

PORT-AU-PRINCE – As tensions and armed conflict escalate in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, shortages of fuel, public transportation and drinking water are putting medical facilities and patients at risk, including those operated by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). MSF calls for urgent fuel deliveries to medical facilities in the city.

While we have been continuously reducing our energy consumption through emergency measures, our trauma and burns hospital in Tabarre, a Port-au-Prince neighbourhood, was forced to reduce medical activities last week, treating only patients with life-threatening conditions. Both the Tabarre hospital and our emergency centre in Turgeau will run out of fuel for hospital generators in three weeks, unless new supplies are delivered. MSF's emergency centre in Cité Soleil will run out in two and a half weeks.

“Medical facilities in Port-au-Prince face the same challenges: no fuel, no electricity, no medical care,” says Jean-Gilbert Ndong, MSF medical coordinator. “We all must have regular deliveries of fuel.”

In the Tabarre hospital, MSF is currently installing solar panels to further reduce the demand on the generators. The lack of fuel is also preventing many staff members from obtaining transportation to reach the hospital for their shifts. With limited means of transportation, teams are constantly adapting so the core medical staff can reach the medical facilities and then return home.

If we lose water supplies in these areas, we will likely see an increase in waterborne diseases... just as medical facilities are at risk of closing entirely. Jean-Gilbert Ndong, MSF medical coordinator

Nearly all public and private health facilities in Port-au-Prince have stopped or limited admissions to only acute cases, or closed their doors due to similar problems. Further closures are possible as the fuel shortage continues.

MSF normally refers patients to other medical facilities when needed, but this is becoming more difficult each day.

“Recently, a patient in respiratory distress came to our emergency centre in Cité Soleil, where we stabilise patients for referral to medical centres,” says Ndong. “We stabilised her and started the referral procedure, but she was refused at four different medical centres where we usually refer our patients; they had stopped admissions because of lack of fuel. Only at the fifth facility was she finally admitted.”

The lack of fuel is affecting other essential goods and services. Food prices have increased sharply, and water supplies are in jeopardy. Haiti's national water agency DINEPA announced on Sunday that it lacks fuel to continue pumping drinking water to numerous areas of the capital. More than 265,000 people live in just one of the areas facing a water shortage, Cité Soleil, according to official figures.

Fuel shortage

“Medical facilities, patients and members of the community all need clean water,” says Ndong. “If we lose water supplies in these areas, we will likely see an increase in waterborne diseases and other urgent medical needs, just as medical facilities are at risk of closing entirely.”

Medical needs remain very high. Our emergency centre in Turgeau is now receiving several women in labour per day, even though it is not a maternity hospital, because other hospitals have limited their services.

At the same time, patients may be delaying seeking care due to the difficulties in the city. MSF’s clinic in the Delmas 33 neighbourhood for sexual and gender-based violence patients has seen fewer people in recent weeks. Those who arrived said they had to walk for hours within the capital city, because public transportation was unavailable.

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