On Saturday 14 August at 8:30 am local time, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck the southern region of Haiti, specifically the provinces of Grand’Anse, Nippes and Sud. But the tremors were felt in other areas of Haiti, too.
The Haitian Civil Protection General Directorate (DGPC) says 137,000 families have been affected in the Grand'Anse, Nippes and Sud departments. According to UNOCHA, about 650,000 people are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance.
The death toll is now over 2,200, according to DGPC, and more than 12,000 people have been injured (as of 22 August). Many municipalities in the affected areas remain isolated from the rest of the country, and landslides and flooding brought on by recent storms have caused additional damage and complicated search efforts.
In terms of buildings, nearly 53,000 houses were destroyed, and more than 77,000 houses were damaged in the 3 most affected provinces (Sud, Grand ’Anse and Nippes) according to DGPC (as of 22 August), leaving thousands without shelter. Many public buildings (hospitals, schools, hotels, churches, private companies, etc.) suffered damage or collapsed.
According to initial assessments, 36 health facilities were damaged or destroyed by the earthquake (OCHA). Many hospitals had to evacuate their patients, and the facilities that continue to function are overwhelmed and experiencing a lack of medical equipment and medicines.
Following the earthquake, the area experienced aftershocks and landslides, causing additional damage. From the evening of 16 August (Monday) to the morning of 17 August (Tuesday), Topical Storm Grace passed by the southern peninsula causing extremely heavy rains, up to 250 millimeters, and flooding. The storm has complicated rescue efforts by making more areas inaccessible and endangering tents and temporary structures being used for urgent medical care, aid and shelter.
MSF has over 100 international staff members and over 1260 Haitian staff members working in Haiti on our regular programmes and emergency response.
In the first hours after the earthquake, the MSF team based in Port-à-Piment and an emergency medical team from Port-au-Prince began assisting injured patients in Sud province.
The hospital in Port-à-Piment where MSF runs a sexual and reproductive health (SRH) project was damaged. The patients, most of them present for maternity services, were evacuated to a tent where our team continues to provide care. In Port-à-Piment, MSF is also stabilizing and facilitating the referral of patients injured by the earthquake, including patients MSF has managed to evacuate from nearby Les Anglais, which is cut off from the rest of the province due to road damage.
In Les Cayes, the capital of Sud province, MSF has started surgical activities in the Hôpital Général des Cayes (also called L'Hôpital Immaculée Conception or HIC), along with logistical support. MSF is also running a mobile clinic, distributing essential non-food items and performing water and sanitation activities in three communities serving 1,600 IDP households. MSF has provided donations, such as tents and medical supplies, to various hospitals in Les Cayes to ensure continuation of medical activities.
In Port-Salut, an MSF team received patients with injuries and fractures, including patients referred from Port-à-Piment, Les Anglais and Les Cayes, and provided stabilization, surgical and follow-up care. 26 patients were received at this location on the first day.
On Monday, 23 August, MSF began running a mobile clinic to more remote communities, including Maniche, Camp Perrin and Cavaillon, which have less access to aid and health care and were the most affected by the earthquake.
MSF has provided donations of medical supplies to three health centres, to facilitate (free of charge) stabilisation and referral of patients: Les Anglais, Chardonnières and Rendel.
A team arrived 15 August in the department of Nippes, where we visited two locations. The first, the Sainte-Thérèse hospital in Miragoâne, had received 59 wounded of which a number were referred to Port-au-Prince for further care for open fractures. MSF gave donations to the hospital and an MSF surgeon and nurse are providing medical support. At the second location, the town health centre of Petit Trou, the team saw more visible damages including to the water system. Most people were staying outside, out of fear of further collapse of buildings including at hospital structures, with the majority of medical consultations taking place outside. MSF gave donations to the health centre and a water truck has been organised to the city of Petit Trou de Nippes. From Monday 23, an assessment team started evaluations of 20 health centres damaged in the department of Nippes.
On 17 August, an MSF team assessed the hospital in L’Asile (Hopital Communautaire L’Asile) as well a hospital in Bonne Fin, both of which were damaged in the earthquake. At Bonne Fin hospital, all patients and staff were outside, with just one tent for "hospitalised patients”. MSF donated medical supplies. At Hopital Communautaire L’Asile, all medical activities were being conducted outside with the building half destroyed and not stable. In total around 50-60 people had been referred to other hospitals for follow up care following the earthquake. The MSF team donated medical supplies, as well as tents (on 19 August) to set up temporary health care and installed a motor pump and a bladder to provide clean water to L'Asile community and the hospital.
Some access routes, such as the road between Les Cayes and Jérémie, are seriously damaged, and complicate the deployment of aid. MSF is moving supplies air due to the difficulties with the road. A medical team, including two surgeons and an operating room nurse, was able to travel to Jérémie on 15 August and began working in St. Antoine’s hospital. As of 20 August, the MSF surgical team in Jérémie has treated 54 patients for injuries suffered in the earthquake. Thirty-six of these patients underwent surgery, while others received casts or splints. MSF brought medical supplies, including sterilization material, for the medical facility. An MSF team also assessed needs in the hard-hit communes of Corail and Pestel, which is 80 percent destroyed, according to local authorities.
In Port-au-Prince, the earthquake fortunately did not damage any infrastructure or buildings. However, injured patients from affected areas have come to the city for care.
MSF is treating injured people in our trauma hospital in Tabarre. As of 23 August, the hospital staff have treated 60 patients injured in the earthquake, 40 of whom were admitted and 20 of whom were treated and discharged or referred elsewhere. After the earthquake, the hospital broadened its criteria for admission and expanded its bed capacity from 50 to 69 beds for trauma patients, in addition to its 20 beds for burns patients.
On 15 August, MSF began providing stabilization care to injured patients at a new emergency centre in the Turgeau neighborhood of Port-au-Prince at the Integrated Diagnosis and Treatment Centre (CDTI), commonly known as the Sacré-Cœur Hospital, which wasn’t scheduled to open until later in the week. Since opening, we have treated 133 earthquake victims from the southern peninsula and 152 other patients (as of 22 August); 82 patients were referred to other hospitals for additional treatment.
To address potential blood shortages, MSF quickly launched a blood collection campaign in Turgeau on 14 August just hours after the earthquake, in partnership with local authorities.
Other reinforcement activities
International emergency staff, including emergency coordinators, medical teams (including trauma surgeons) and WATSAN/logistical experts have arrived in Haiti.
On 21 and 22 August, MSF’s Supply team in Brussels sent 100 tons of material to Haiti via two planes. The cargo includes items for setting up emergency medical structures and offices for our operations using tents; materials to install emergency drinking water supply systems for at least 30,000 people; and medical supplies for the care of 30,000 patients, including items for stabilisation, first aid, vaccination and blood collection.
MSF has been present in Haiti for over 30 years. Our regular activities continue, including at the Tabarre hospital in Port-au-Prince, where MSF is treating severely burned patients as well as people with life-threatening injuries. MSF also provides maternal and sexual and reproductive health care in Port-a-Piment in Haiti's Sud province and treats victims of sexual and gender-based violence in Port-au-Prince and Gonaïves.
After more than 15 years, MSF was forced to close its emergency center in Martissant, Port-au-Prince, after an armed group fired on the facility on June 26, putting medical staff and patients at risk. Earlier in the year, MSF was forced to relocate its burns hospital from Drouillard to Tabarre due to insecurity.