Haiti has descended into hell since its tourism boom of the 1980s. Haitians lost their political stability long ago, even before the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed approximately 250,000 people. In recent years, the fragile political landscape has deteriorated, coupled with increasing violent crime and civil unrest. This instability is on top of Haiti’s social ills.
Haiti’s problems affect the everyday life of the population, while also impeding the proper functioning of NPH’s St. Damien Paediatric Hospital. As Haiti experiences more impromptu crises, no one can predict when the next emergency will strike. Currently, St. Damien’s medical staff are having to work 24-hour shifts. This means that the hospital must provide staff with accommodation on the hospital grounds, as they are unable to make it home due to the insecurity.
This places a heavy burden on the hospital’s already limited resources. The hospital needs to provide safe transportation for its employees. Its ambulances are currently used for this purpose. During a recent lockdown the hospital incurred extra transport cost of $4800 NZD.
The ambulances are still needed for emergencies as well. On top of the growing costs, the hospital is also struggling with other challenges. There is difficulty in obtaining medication and other vital equipment and materials. Inevitably the increased stress impacts the performance of the overworked staff who have to carry out important procedures.
It’s no surprise that many skilled workers are leaving the country as the insecurity escalates. Worried about the situation, fewer patients are going to the outpatient clinics, which means many people are not getting the medical care they need. As a result, emergency cases are rising.
So far, St. Damien Paediatric Hospital has not been directly attacked. However, gunshots are frequent in the surrounding neighbourhood of Tabarre. When St Damien staff return home after a shift they often pass the remains of burning barricades on the streets.
Employees are afraid to speak on the record about the country’s problems, preferring to remain anonymous due to potential reprisals. A nurse describes how fearful she is when out on the streets, saying, “It’s really hard to find the exact words about the impact the country has had on my life. I’m afraid of the long-term consequences. It stresses me out a lot, especially since I was once assaulted.”
The nurse continues, “If I am in the streets late and on foot, I constantly look over my shoulder in fear. I have become suspicious of everyone I know. In the morning when I go to work, I am always alone in the car. I have to drive at fast speeds, which risks an accident, but it keeps me safe from any potential kidnapper. I’m still energized, but the hardest part is that we are powerless and we can’t do anything about it. The state and police cannot do much. Our only recourse, our great strength in this fight, is God. So far, only He can guarantee our protection and security.”
Another employee, who also prefers to remain anonymous, says, “The Haitian police, who ought to guarantee our safety, are powerless to stop the insecurity we experience daily. We young Haitians, who dreamed of a better Haiti, are ashamed of these people connected to the gangs. They don’t care how their actions impact the Haitian population in such a destructive way.”
Right now, the needs at St. Damien Hospital are mostly structural. As always, there is a need for materials, medicines and personal protective equipment. However, there are also other urgent needs, such as getting a new generator to deal with blackouts, the expansion of the operating suite, renovations to the sanitary block, building a mortuary, updating the computer and telecommunications system, obtaining an air purifier, rebuilding the waste disposal system, and setting up the backyard parking lot. The hospital also needs to strengthen its security infrastructure due to the growing instability which exposes the hospital to various risks. Needed improvements include increasing the number of cameras, adding more lighting, and building reinforced fences.
Haiti’s President was assassinated on the 7th of July 2021. This has led to a worsening crisis and more challenges for our St Damien Paediatric Hospital and the children of Haiti. NPH Haiti has accompanied the Haitian people through many crises since 1987, and we are sure that we’ll continue to be of great service to many sick children and their families during this difficult time.
St. Damien Hospital is currently the only paediatric hospital in the country. It receives patients from all areas of the country, is open 24 hours a day and every day of the week, always ready to offer quality care to all Haitians.
If you would like to support the hospital:
- You can make a donation here.
- Become a Lifesaver from just $15 per month.
- Attend our High Tea for Haiti on the 4th of July in Devonport.