Haiti: Insecurity-triggered fuel shortage threatens newborns’ lives in hospitals
PORT-AU-PRINCE, 25 October 2021 – Hundreds of women and children who seek emergency care in health facilities are at risk of dying if solutions are not found to the fuel shortage prevailing in Haiti for weeks due to insecurity, UNICEF warned today.
Several hospitals across the country have sent SOS messages directly to UNICEF and its partners, and via media and social media, as they lack fuel to support their power generators and enable their emergency departments to respond efficiently.
“With the insecurity prevailing in Port-au-Prince, the lives of many child-bearing women and newborn babies are in danger because hospitals that should give them life-saving care cannot operate normally due to lack of fuel. They risk dying if health services cannot give them adequate care,” said Raoul de Torcy, UNICEF Deputy Representative.
In Haiti, the national electricity grid is unreliable, electricity goes in and out and is scarce in many areas across the country. Power outages are frequent and prolonged, and most hospitals rely on fuel-powered generators to keep patients alive, especially children and pregnant women.
The lives of 300 children, 45 women in maternity and 70 other adults including COVID-19 patients are in danger as two major hospitals in the Haitian capital may stop providing care in 72 hours if they do not receive fuel immediately, credible local media reported on Saturday.
As an emergency and temporary solution, UNICEF has secured a contract with a local provider to supply hospitals in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince with 10,000 gallons of fuel, 37,850 litres. But due to insecurity, the provider eventually declared that they could not transport fuel in the Haitian capital or other provinces including southwestern Haiti where 12,200 people still need care after being injured during the 14 August earthquake.
Even though fuel is available at terminals in Port-au-Prince, transporting it across the country has become more difficult because many truck drivers do not want to ply the roads crossing gang-controlled areas for fear of being kidnapped and their truck hijacked.
“No child should ever die because of a power cut. It’s frustrating to see how increased risks of kidnapping and looting in Haiti are threatening the lives of newborns and mothers, just because the much-needed fuel cannot be delivered to hospitals on the ground amidst mounting insecurity,” said De Torcy.
Over 150 hospitalized COVID-19 patients who need emergency care are particularly at risk because without fuel to make power generators work, they cannot be supplied with oxygen in hospitals that are not equipped with solar panels. 23,619 COVID-19 cases and 662 deaths have been reported in Haiti as of 19 October
UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health by providing hospitals with fuel and oxygen when necessary and has installed over 900 solar fridges in health institutions to keep vaccines in the right temperatures. But the solar panels installed cannot support all emergency departments in hospitals.
Insecurity and the fuel crisis have also impacted humanitarian operations as transport of emergency supplies has become more expensive and the delivery time, much longer. The Haitian agency for potable water and hygiene DINEPA, cannot operate its pumping capacity at optimal level, which has reduced the provision of water in homes, schools and health institutions.
UNICEF urges all relevant actors to refrain from using violence to spread insecurity and fear and endanger the lives of women and children, including those who seek care in health institutions. UNICEF calls upon the Government of Haiti to take action to restore security and allow access to basic services without restrictions.
UNICEF is the world’s leading humanitarian organization focused on children. We work in the most challenging areas to provide protection, healthcare and immunizations, education, safe water and sanitation and nutrition. As part of the United Nations, our unrivaled reach spans more than 190 countries and territories, ensuring we are on the ground to help the most disadvantaged children. While part of the UN system, UNICEF relies entirely on voluntary donations to finance our life-saving work. Please visit unicef.ca and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.