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Haiti plunges into anarchy as gang violence forces evacuation of Port-au-Prince hospital

Authorities evacuated a major city hospital on Thursday in the capital city of Port-au-Prince amid continued gang violence

Protestas en Puerto Príncipe (Haití).
Protestas en Puerto Príncipe (Haití). | Archivo-EFE/ Johnson Sabin

November 16, 2023 8:32am

Updated: November 16, 2023 8:32am

Authorities evacuated a major city hospital on Thursday in the capital city of Port-au-Prince amid continued gang violence. More than a hundred patients had to be removed and relocated from the Fontaine Hospital Center, according to its director Jose Ulysse.

The director said that -nearly half of the patients were children.

The hospital, located in the Cite Soleil shantytown, has faced increased pressure from gang violence after tensions rose in the wake of a gang leader being killed.

The move comes amid several weeks of reports of the Haitian capital slipping into the grasp of chaos as anarchic gang violence continues to ripple throughout the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.

In July, ADN America reported that the U.S. State Department ordered all non-emergency personnel to leave the island and advised their families and American citizens to depart as well.

“There was a gang war, but the war is around the hospital,” Ulysse told AFP news agency, explaining that the violence was closing in on the medical facility’s front doors.

His explanation clarifies earlier reports that gangs had actually invaded the hospital and taken patients and medical personnel as hostages.

That scenario has not yet occurred, but gangs have set nearby houses ablaze, stoking fears in the medical facility, prompting some personnel and even patients to leave.

One woman who left was still recovering from having given birth by Caesarean section a day earlier, according to a report published by the BBC.

“We were able to get everyone to safety,” Ulysse told AFP.

A source in Port-au-Prince told a correspondent reporting for the BBC in Latin America that the situation at the hospital had “escalated very quickly.”

The disturbing news comes one day after gang leader Iskar Andrice was killed in Cite Soleil. Authorities have worried the death could lead to retaliatory acts of gang warfare with local civilians caught in the middle.

Port-au-Prince has slowly slipped under the control of violent gangs ever since the assassination of the country's president in 2021. The president’s killing left the island plunged into a political crisis.

Since then, gangs have literally been slowly invading the capital even placing their members in charge of administrative agencies such as schools and government buildings.

More than 2,400 Haitians have been killed and thousands of have fled the city, according to the latest figures from the U.N. which is raising external police support from countries like Kenya.

The central African country has pledged to send a thousand police officers to the Caribbean island to help restore law and order.

Haiti’s descent into violence has been met with increased warnings from U.S. federal agencies.

In late April, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning Americans against traveling to Haiti after a wave of crime has led to increased violence and kidnappings.

“While we understand that there are strong ties between Haiti and South Florida, before traveling there one should consider the trauma and financial costs of being kidnapped not only to themselves but to their family and friends as well,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Liz Santamaria said that month, according to the Miami Herald.

At that time, kidnappings in Haiti had already skyrocketed by 300% during the first three months of this year compared to the previous period last year, according to the FBI’s Miami field office.

By July, problems only got worse.

The U.S. State Department at that time ordered all non-emergency government personnel and their family members, as well as U.S. citizens, to leave Haiti "by commercial or other privately available transportation options” amid a wave of violence. 

“Given the recent armed clashes between gangs and the police and the high threat of violent crime and kidnapping throughout Port-au-Prince, the Department of State urges U.S. citizens to make plans to depart Haiti as soon as possible via commercial means,” the U.S. Embassy website wrote in an online statement.

The State Department cited “kidnapping, crime, civil unrest, poor health care infrastructure,” as to why Americans should leave the Caribbean country. 

Executive Editor

Gelet Martínez Fragela

Gelet Martínez Fragela is the founder and editor-in-chief of ADN America. She is a Cuban journalist, television producer, and political refugee who also founded ADN Cuba.