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Haiti: ‘Bearers of hope’, saving newborn lives, amid growing turmoil

Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. UNDP Haiti/Borja Lopetegui Gonzalez

As protection, healthcare and essential services break down, the violence and volatile political and economic crisis engulfing Haiti has rapidly deteriorated into what the UN has described overall as a humanitarian catastrophe.

A gang-led blockade at the country’s principal fuel terminal in the capital Port au Prince, has led to riots and severe shortages for weeks.

Healthcare collapse

Around three quarters of major hospitals are without power and unable to function, and there are shortages of medicine, oxygen and life-saving equipment. With public transport options nearly non-existent, health workers can no longer commute and there are now only three ambulances functioning in Port-au-Prince – with close to none running in the rest of the country.

Gang violence has been surging across Haiti since July this year, with hundreds of people killed, raped and kidnapped and more than 25,000 driven from their homes in the capital in search of shelter – the majority of them women and children. 

Now amid an almost complete lack of basic services, including functioning health centres, access to safe drinking water, sanitation facilities and refuse collection, a cholera outbreak is threatening the health and lives of millions of already vulnerable and impoverished people.

The water-borne disease causes acute diarrhoea that can be deadly if left untreated within the first few hours: So far 18 have died and there are over 250 suspected cases.

Cholera threat to newborns

Without medical facilities or skilled health workers, among the most at risk of not receiving the critical care they need are some 29,000 pregnant women and their newborns – especially if they now contract cholera.

A further 10,000 obstetric complications could go untreated, and thousands of women and girls exposed to high rates of sexual violence and abuse have been left without protection services.

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