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Haiti’s health system on the verge of collapse: UNICEF

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP)— The health care system in Haiti is at risk of collapsing, with six out of 10 hospitals barely operational, UNICEF warned Wednesday.

The alert from the UN children’s agency came as the long-awaited deployment of a Kenyan-led international mission aimed at tackling the unrest in the country — in the throes of deadly gang violence — finally seemed to be on the horizon.

“Haiti’s health system is on the verge of collapse,” UNICEF’s representative in the troubled Caribbean nation, Bruno Maes, said in a statement, noting that millions of children are now vulnerable to disease and malnutrition.

“The combination of violence, mass displacement, dangerous epidemics, and increasing malnutrition has bent Haiti’s health system, but the strangling of supply chains may be what breaks it.”

Haiti’s hospitals are lacking necessary medical supplies, with domestic and international cargo flights only recently resuming with the reopening of the airport in the capital Port-au-Prince after a 2.5-month closure.

“Containers filled with vital supplies have been held up, or were looted, as were many warehouses and pharmacies,” UNICEF said, adding that hundreds of containers filled with humanitarian aid are stuck in the city, unable to be unloaded.

“We cannot allow vital supplies that could save children’s lives to remain blocked in warehouses and containers. They must be delivered now,” said Maes.

Tens of thousands of people have fled the gang violence in Port-au-Prince, with many of them heading to southern Haiti, putting pressure on health services in those areas.

The mayhem also has prompted 40 percent of all medical staff to leave Haiti, the UN agency said.

Some 4.4 million Haitians need food aid, and 1.6 million are facing “emergency levels of acute food insecurity,” it said.

Since the emergence of a new cholera outbreak in October 2022, 82,000 suspected cases have been reported.

“The arrival of the rainy season is expected to worsen the situation, bringing a rise in cases of water-borne disease as well as disease spread by mosquitoes, such as malaria,” UNICEF said.

Haiti has languished in chronic political instability for decades.