September 28, 2023
International Safe Abortion Day: Progress in Mexico, setbacks in the USA
From providing women and girls with access to reproductive healthcare, to responding to natural disasters such as Hurricane Matthew and the deadly 2010 earthquake, our teams have been strengthening access to healthcare in Haiti since 1989.
Haiti is currently experiencing a complex humanitarian crisis that is largely driven by insecurity and violence which has put a large part of the population at risk. In Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, gangs have blocked the Varreux oil terminal, which in turn has led to a shortage of fuel. This energy crisis has affected the health infrastructure, along with access to clean drinking water. Without a robust healthcare infrastructure and clean water, Haiti has once again become incredibly vulnerable to a cholera outbreak, especially as living conditions of the most vulnerable people continue to deteriorate.
The rise in violence in Haiti has seriously impeded Haitians access to healthcare, both as medical staff and as patients. Reports of kidnappings and attacks have been steadily growing, forcing many to avoid seeking care for fear they may get trapped in the violence. Medical personnel struggle to reach their health facilities as barricades have been set up across the country. Transport and supply of equipment and medicines has also been hindered due to the shortage of fuel. Three quarters of hospitals have been impeded in Haiti, leaving much of the population without access to essential and life-saving care. The consequences of insecurity are exacerbating an already fragile state, with Haiti having the highest maternal mortality rate in Latin America and the Caribbean, and needs only continue to grow.
Humanitarian access has also been compromised. With main roads under gang control, humanitarian organizations face increasingly dangerous situations as they seek to access the most vulnerable populations in need of aid. Many humanitarian partners have been forced to cease all activity on the ground and have restructured their work to ensure a minimum of assistance. The World Food Program and other UN agencies have had their warehouses looted for food. Furthermore, humanitarian funding is insufficient, the humanitarian response plan for Haiti is only funded with US$103.4 million, which only covers a third of the needs for the year 2022. To properly address the crisis ongoing in Haiti, further funding is urgently needed.
For the past few months, Doctors of the World has been watching the rapid deterioration of the medical and health situation across Haiti, and the daily violence that the civilian population has to endure. Despite the insecurity in the country, DotW continues to provide institutional and community support while trying to meet the most urgent needs within the limits of what the security situation allows.
To begin, our organization coordinates 115 community health workers who crisscross the most affected areas in the west of the country. These agents raise awareness of the risks of transmission, the means of protection and the detection of the disease. They accompany the sick, redirect them and distribute hygiene kits (water purification tablets, sachets of solution and oral rehydration, etc.) in communities and health centres.
Doctors of the World also supports three hospitals in Port-au-Prince (Centre Hospitalier de Fontaine, Sainte Catherine de Laboure and Center Haitiano Arabe Plan International) in order to facilitate the management of cases (suspected or confirmed), the training of medical personnel, strengthening of teams and distribution of medical equipment.
Despite the destruction, the ability of Haitians to rise up and organize is immensely impressive. The members of our team who were directly affected by the hurricane were the first to mobilize a response. I am extremely proud of their courage and dedication.
In addition to our emergency response work our teams also work on reducing infant mortality, sexual and reproductive health, and supporting primary healthcare services alongside the Haitian government.
In partnership with two civil society organizations, POZ (Health, Life and HIV) and SOFA (Haitian Women’s Solidarity), Doctors of the World is working in Port-au-Prince to improve women’s access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. We also support women focused organizations in their efforts to establish a healthcare access observatory and an advocacy platform for sexual and reproductive health rights in the region.