Below is a first-person story from Haiti, written by Cassagnol Destine, Project Coordinator of NPH Haiti about the current situation.
An NPH staff member describes the situation in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince and how NPH is supporting the people
At two in the afternoon I get into an ambulance, together with other staff from the NPH St Damien Pediatric Hospital. We’re taking them to the areas where they live. Ambulances are the only means of transport respected by the demonstrators. On the way back we’ll pick up other staff and injured people.
The situation is chaotic. It doesn’t take long until we encounter the first roadblock. We slowly drive up to it. Everyone holds their breath, but then we’re allowed through without delay. On our way to the next blockade a group of about 250 people races towards us. They indicate to us that we shouldn’t try to go any further, but we need to get past the roadblock and drop off some of our passengers so that they can make their way home on foot through the narrow alleyways.
Tear gas, stones, and gunshots
The driver presses slowly onwards. He cranks down the window and talks to the demonstrators. They say that a confrontation between the police and looters has escalated. The police are using tear gas, rocks are being thrown, and there have been gunshots, though no one knows from which side. Then we see the blockades, the burning tires, and a small group of police trying to keep the situation under control. The police are exhausted from constantly being on duty; they are utterly outnumbered. Finally we manage to drop off all the staff without incident and pick up more passengers.
Breaking point on the street
Not all vehicles get away so easily. Another one arrived at a barricade just as the police had shot dead a youth who was throwing stones. The outraged crowd wanted the ambulance to transport the body. The ambulance, however, was already at full capacity, and the shooting would in any case have to be investigated.
The people exploded in rage. They took the ambulance hostage until finally some demonstrators recognized the NPH hospital name and defended the staff on board.
When the ambulance finally set off, rocks were thrown, smashing the rear windshield and seriously injuring one woman passenger. At that stage every second counted, because every new reaction could put the lives of all the staff at risk. With support via radio, the shocked driver maneuvered his way out of danger and brought the injured woman to the nearest hospital.
It’s all about family
The injured woman was Mary, our cook. She cooks for not only the staff, but also the children in the wards. Her capability and her love for the children are worth more than words can express. Many parents of children receiving treatment are so poor that they can’t afford to bring food into the hospital for their children. The same evening an ambulance collected Mary and brought her to a safe place, our partner organization St. Luke Hospital in Tabarre.
The ambulance driver was told to take a few days off. The next day he was nonetheless at his post by the hospital entrance. He said, “This is no time for quitting. We’ll get through this together.” It’s at times like this that I have a strong feeling that we’re not just a team of staff members, but a family—the NPH family.
Ambulance on a street in Port-au-Prince
NPH's St. Damien Pediatric Hospital
People waiting for water deliveries