Doctors without Borders (MSF) said Monday it had closed a hospital in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince after it was hit by gunfire at the weekend -- a gloomy sign of an escalation of violence in the city.
Luckily, no one was wounded in the attack on the clinic in Port-au-Prince’s Martissant neighborhood, which has been run by the Nobel peace prize-winning charity since 2006 and provides critical care to the poor.
The area is now effectively under siege by armed gangs, and Doctors Without Borders, or Medecins sans Frontieres, said it could no longer “keep caring for the population without putting its staff in danger.”
The facility has been evacuated, with patients transported to other clinics, the group said in a statement.
“The safety of our personnel is a priority, because we cannot care for others if our own staff is at risk,” said Alessandra Giudiceandrea, the head of MSF’s mission in Haiti.
She added she did not believe the group was directly targeted in the attack.
The impoverished Caribbean nation, which is deep in political and security chaos, has seen a marked uptick in the number of kidnappings for ransom by armed gangs, and is also facing an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases.
“At a time when we should be expanding our work because of Covid-19 and other factors, we are fighting to keep our facilities open, despite the deplorable security conditions,” Giudiceandrea said.
Non-governmental organizations play a key role in providing medical care in Haiti, where the government devotes less than five percent of its budget to health care.
MSF has been working in Haiti for 30 years.
The criminal gangs have tolerated MSF’s presence in Martissant, but the group still has to deal with increasing security risks in the Haitian capital.
An MSF employee was fatally shot recently as he headed home.
Armed attackers also held up two ambulance drivers, and previous clashes have erupted near the clinic.