Public Health in Haiti’s

Port-au-Prince, a city of 3.5 million people of which half live in slums, has 21 public health facilities including four hospitals. These fee-for-service facilities hardly function due to a lack of paid medical staff, equipment and supplies.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

“It’s unacceptable today that Haiti’s poorest have no access to affordable and quality emergency trauma and obstetrical care services,” says Brian Phillip Moller, head of mission for MSF’s Trinité trauma and rehabilitation center. “While the Haitian government and donors focus on the economic development of the country they can no longer ignore the desperate needs of impoverished Haitians for quality and accessible public medical care.”

Public hospital and clinics are often plagued by management problems, strikes, and shortages of staff, drug, and medical supplies.

MSF started providing emergency care when violence in Port-au-Prince limited access to health care for its population. Today, although the security situation has improved, the health needs of the vulnerable population of Port-au-Prince remain largely unaddressed.

MSF invests more than 13 million euros (US $17.5 million) per year in its emergency medical programs in Haiti. MSF’s obstetric hospital currently manages 40 percent of all obstetric emergencies for vulnerable women in Port-au-Prince, while MSF’s Trinité hospital treated close to 17,950 trauma cases in 2008, and has the only adequate burns unit in Haiti. Likewise, 16,950 medical emergency cases were treated at MSF’s hospital in the slum Martissant in 2008, where no other public health services exist. During the April 2008 demonstrations against rapidly increasing food prices, MSF teams treated more than 44 gunshot-wounded patients in four days, an indicator of the instability of this Caribbean nation.

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Photo Credit: Andy Levin