The earthquake of 2010 destroyed 60% of the health system. MSF immediately set up one of the largest emergency responses in its history, providing care to 360,000 people over the following 10 months.
The range of medical services, which had significantly increased after the earthquake, is low again following the departure of many NGOs who left Haiti after the institutional funding of their projects ended. The many medical centres set up by international donors are unable to function properly: in addition to being understaffed, the Haitian Ministry of Health is financially incapable of covering their operating costs as well as their purchases of medicines and medical supplies.
Health authorities in the country are not getting support from those involved in the medical sector to rebuild a health system accessible to the entire population and capable of providing quality care. MSF has chosen to stay by their side to help them towards this goal. Of course, quality specialized care exists, but mainly in private structures: in a country where the majority of the population lives below the poverty threshold, that care remains inaccessible to most people.
Haiti is like horror in paradise. The beauty of the country is out of step with the hardships experienced by the Haitian people. It is MSF's duty not to abandon them. For example, the project Martissant in Port-au-Prince - a fully operational, efficient and free MSF emergency centre located in the heart of a slum - admits all types of urgent pathology. This project is particularly well suited to a context of poverty, destitution and chronic insecurity, says Dr. Guy Berchem who is back from the field.
In a context where neither structural problems nor the social and criminal violence witness any improvements - like in Tabarre where, on average, five patients suffering of gunshot wounds are treated daily - MSF has set up a network of specialized care and free medical services in the capital Port-au-Prince. MSF runs three hospitals, each with its own specialty: trauma, maternity/obstetrics and treatment of burned victims, an emergency centre and a clinic for victims of sexual violence. In addition, MSF is ready to respond quickly and effectively to natural disasters, cholera outbreaks and/or a potential escalation of violence.
As long as important gaps in health services persist in the country and the costs stay too high for the poorest, MSF will continue to provide free quality care to those who are neglected. But as an emergency organization, MSF can not replace the Ministry of Health. The Haitian authorities must make long-term investments with the support of international donors, concludes Paul Delaunois, General Director of MSF Luxembourg.