Haiti News: Police Take Hospital Away from Gang
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Haiti News: Police Take Hospital Away from Gang

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti –

Haiti’s newly elected Prime Minister Garry Conille and Haiti’s police chief visited the country’s largest hospital on Tuesday after authorities said they had seized control of the medical facility from armed gangs over the weekend.

Haitian police chief Normil Rameau told a news conference Monday that police had taken control of the Haiti State University Hospital, known as the General Hospital, in Port-au-Prince on Sunday evening after months of escalating attacks by armed groups.

Haitians “woke up one morning and saw that the operation had been carried out, the bandits had been detained and neutralized,” Normil told a briefing, but he did not take questions from media. He was accompanied by Kenyan officer Godfrey Otunge, who said the UN-backed Kenyan police contingent intends to work closely with Haitian authorities, as well as local and international partners committed to rebuilding Haiti.

The green and white hospital had been ravaged by gangs, with beds stripped of their beds and ceiling fans lying on the floor. The interior of the building was strewn with rubble and light fixtures among the hospital cubicles.

The hospital walls and nearby buildings were riddled with bullet holes, indicating fighting between police and gangs in the area. The hospital is just across the street from the National Palace, which has been the site of several battles over the past five months.

Conille said the building looked like a “war zone.”

Haiti News: Police Take Hospital Away from GangThe emergency room at the General Hospital is empty during a visit by Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, July 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Council member Louis Gerald Gilles was also present during Tuesday’s visit and announced that the hospital should be fully operational by February 2026. Conille said that before the gang chokehold, the hospital was admitting about 1,500 people a day.

“This hospital is not for the rich, it is for the poor,” Conille said Tuesday. “These are people who need serious help and cannot go to a private doctor.”

Attacks by criminal gangs have brought Haiti’s healthcare system to the brink of collapse, and the escalation of violence has led to an increase in the number of patients with serious illnesses and a shortage of resources to treat them.

Gangs are looting, burning and destroying medical facilities and pharmacies in the capital, where they control up to 80 percent of the area.

Haiti’s health system, already struggling before the outbreak of violence, faces additional challenges from the rainy season, which is expected to worsen conditions and increase the risk of waterborne diseases.

Poor hygiene conditions in camps and makeshift settlements have increased the risk of diseases such as cholera. According to a UNICEF report, more than 84,000 suspected cases have been recorded in the country.

In addition to the hospital, gunmen took over police stations, attacked the main international airport (which was closed for almost three months) and stormed Haiti’s two largest prisons.

In April, a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Haiti told The Associated Press that staff had been forced to reduce the number of outpatients treated daily from 150 to 50. Patients lined up outside the hospital each day, risking being shot by gang members while waiting for medical attention.

Violence in Haiti has displaced nearly 580,000 people since March, according to a report by the UN migration agency.