Medecins Sans Frontieres shuts Haiti hospital amid gang violence

By - Reuters

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has temporarily closed its hospital in Cite Soleil, in Haiti's capital, after gang violence threatened the safety of patients and staff, a spokesperson for the group told Reuters Wednesday.

This comes amid escalating violence from heavily armed gangs who last week expanded their territory to cover new areas both in the capital Port-au-Prince and nearby towns, forcing several schools to shut their gates as kidnappings also increase.

Field communication manager Alexandre Marcou said the closure leaves Cite Soleil, an impoverished neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital, with just one privately run hospital and another MSF operation which is reducing operations.

"We are living scenes of warfare just meters (yards) from the establishment," Vincent Harris, an MSF medical advisor, said in a statement.

"Our hospital has not been directly targeted but we have been a collateral victim of the fighting since the hospital found itself on the frontline."

Marcou said a child who was on oxygen had died in a security room, where patients are sent for protection from gunfire around the building. A 70-year-old man had also been found shot across form the hospital as he tried to cross the street.

"Because of the territorial conflicts, one of the groups decided crossing was forbidden, so the reaction was a bullet," he said.

Earlier this year, an MSF-backed public hospital just south of the capital also closed its doors after a patient was killed by a bullet as he left the emergency room.

Around Port-au-Prince, MSF continues to operate a center for trauma and bullet wounds and survivors of sexual violence, which a United Nations report said gangs were using en masse to instill fear.

    It also operates mobile clinics, emergency centers for serious accidents, clinics for pregnant women and babies, and cholera treatment centers, though Marcou said the outbreak, which began in October, was seeing a decline.

    "We are not leaving Haiti," said Marcou, stressing the closure was temporary and MSF planned to increase its work if needed, although it could not keep operations open if staff and patients are not safe.

(Reporting by Harold Isaac and Sarah Morland; Editing by Brendan O'Boyle and Sandra Maler)

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