Haitian prime minister tours Port au Prince hospital after police take back from gang control

EVENS SANON
AP
Security surrounds Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille, centre, as he arrives at the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince.
Security surrounds Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille, centre, as he arrives at the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince. Credit: Odelyn Joseph/AP

Haiti’s newly selected Prime Minister Garry Conille and Haiti’s police chief visited the country’s largest hospital on Tuesday, after authorities said they took control of the medical institution over the weekend from armed gangs.

Haitian Police Chief Normil Rameau told a news conference Monday that police took control of the Hospital of the State University of Haiti, known as the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, on Sunday night after months of escalating attacks from armed groups.

Haitians will “wake up one morning and find the operation done, the bandits stopped, and neutralized,” Chief Normil said at the briefing, but did not take questions from the media. He was accompanied by Kenyan officer Godfrey Otunge, who said that the UN-backed contingent of Kenyan police intends to work closely with Haitian authorities as well as local and international partners dedicated to rebuilding Haiti.

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The green and white-colored hospital was left ravaged by gangs, with beds stripped of their cots and ceiling fans on the floor. The building’s interior was left with debris and lighting fixtures among the hospital’s cubicles.

Hospital walls and nearby buildings were riddled with bullet holes, signalling fights between police and gangs in the neighbourhood. The hospital is just across the street from the national palace, which was the scene of several battles in the last five months.

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

Council member Louis Gérald Gilles was also present on Tuesday’s visit, and announced the hospital should be in full service by February 2026. Mr Conille said the hospital served about 1,500 people a day before the gang’s chokehold on the capital.

“This hospital is not for the rich, it’s for the poor,” Mr Conille said on Tuesday. “These are people that need serious help that can’t go see a private doctor.”

The attacks from criminal groups have pushed Haiti’s health system to the brink of collapse and the escalating violence has led to a surge in patients with serious illnesses and a shortage of resources to treat them.

Gangs have been looting, setting fires, and destroying medical institutions and pharmacies in the capital, where they control up to 80 per cent of the area.

Haiti’s health care system, already struggling before the violence, faces additional challenges from the wet season, which is likely to worsen conditions and increase the risk of water-borne diseases.

Poor hygiene conditions in camps and makeshift settlements have heightened the risk of diseases like cholera, with over 84,000 suspected cases in the country, according to a UNICEF report.

Besides the hospital, gunmen have seized police stations, attacked the main international airport (which was closed for nearly three months), and stormed Haiti’s two largest prisons.

Haitian police patrol near the General Hospital after Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille visited the facility.
Haitian police patrol near the General Hospital after Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille visited the facility. Credit: Odelyn Joseph/AP

In April, a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Haiti told The Associated Press that staff had been forced to cut the number of outpatients it treats daily from 150 to 50, with people lining up outside the hospital each day and risking being shot by gang members as they awaited medical care.

According to a report from the UN migration agency, the violence in Haiti has displaced nearly 580,000 people since March.

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