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Haiti: On the brink of a humanitarian crisis?

The last 13 days have been amongst out most difficult in Haiti, probably since the devastating cholera outbreak.  As you may have read in our recent post, Haiti Protests Paralyse Country, a new intensity of political instability caused by anger at Government corruption allegations and an economy in free fall, has all but shut the country down until the weekend.  At times this week, reputable commentators have asked whether Haiti is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis? Just now I spoke to one friend who commented how even getting drinking water has been a struggle.

With the security situation, our long term HHA team were on lock down. Pippa, one of our team reported;

'The last two weeks have been painful to say the least. I have hated seeing this beautiful country rocked by such violent protests and it’s people unable to get fuel, food and sometimes water because they cannot get out of their houses.

The protests came very close to our compound, with roadblocks, riots and police intervention coming within 2 minutes of us. During this time we were on lockdown in our compound, and even when the protests were further away we remained on semi-lockdown because of the volatile nature of the protests. It has been a stressful time.' 

Aside from the protests and weakening economy, Haiti is facing a very serious fuel shortage which left our hospital close to imminent closure at the weekend.  This would have been devastating when other major hospitals in our region had already been forced to close.  We were subsequently the only surgical centre in Cap-Haitien (one of Haiti's largest cities) providing trauma and surgical care.  Our team received a lot of cases, including gun shot wounds.  Thanks to an emergency appeal by the hospital, local business and groups rallied behind our work and we now have enough fuel until Thursday.  As Pippa shared,

'The fuel crisis and protests are inexorably linked: both cause chaos, confusion and worry for the whole population, and both must be resolved soon, otherwise I don’t know how this amazing country will survive.' 

After being on lock down for so long, seeing a rise of blockades in our area last Thursday & Friday and Government travel warnings increasing, some of our team decided to re-locate to the US for some time, whilst things settle.  As one team left, we made the difficult decision to send another team in, equipped with the skills and materials to offer some life-saving interventions to the hospital at such a desperate time.  Ieuan & George, our HHA volunteers on the ground shared,

'We were certainly apprehensive about going into Haiti during a troubled time especially as we hear of people leaving, but consider that the need outweighs the risk.  There are new born babies that still have the right to life in a troubled time, not forgetting there will certainly be causalities from the protests.'

Since arriving they've fixed the hospitals water purification system ensuring we can provide safe drinking water, even amidst talks of a national water shortage.  They are also working on fixing some of the hospital sterilisers to ensure safe surgical intervention can continue and working to improve our hospitals solar system to mitigate ongoing fuel shortages.  Please keep their efforts in your prayers and thanks to all those who have been praying!

Fortunately things have been more peaceful in the last few days, though just this morning near the hospital there was a new wave of insecurity.  We remain on restricted movements, as do most NGOs whilst we await how this week may unfold.

Whether the protests subside or not this week, the daily struggle of Haitians won't, and our intervention to continue caring for the most vulnerable remains crucial.