Statement on Armed Attack on Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais in Haiti

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PIH stands with sister organization, Zanmi Lasante, in strongly condemning the violent gang attack

Posted on Sept 26, 2023

Medical residents’ housing on the compound of Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais, Haiti. (Photo by Nadia Todres for PIH)

An armed gang opened fire inside the Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais, Haiti’s 350-bed teaching hospital, in the early hours of September 26, terrifying patients and staff and leaving the facility, including the neonatal intensive care unit, riddled with bullets. No staff or patients were hurt in the attack, according to witness reports. 

However, about 50% of HUM’s patients fled the facility—including critically ill patients whose health may deteriorate without access to life saving medical care. Our colleagues at Zanmi Lasante (ZL), as PIH is known in Haiti, are doing all that they can to protect patients and try to bring them back to care. ZL has issued the following statement in response to the attack, which comes after months of escalating gang violence throughout the country:

The Executive Leadership of Zanmi Lasante and Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais (HUM) strongly condemn the shocking attack perpetrated by a gang at HUM, at roughly 2:30 a.m. today. This brutal attack violated the moral agreement that hospitals are places of neutrality, leaving medical staff and patients deeply traumatized.

“We strongly condemn this attack as a breach of the principle of medical neutrality protected by International Humanitarian Law,” says Marc Julmisse, ZL’s interim executive director. “Despite this targeted attack on HUM, Zanmi Lasante staff remain committed to providing lifesaving care for the people of Haiti, and we ask that you stand in solidarity with them.”

HUM is a symbol of quality health care and a place of healing for the Haitian community. It is where lives are saved, where pain is soothed, and where everyone, regardless of their circumstances, finds help in time of need. Hospitals are neutral places, refuges where everyone can find safety and care, regardless of their origins or affiliations. This attack on HUM violates the essential principles of hospital neutrality, and it has left a deep scar on hospital staff and patients alike.

Of the more than 350 patients present at the time of the attack, many were in intensive care, in critical condition. The hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit— housing fragile, helpless newborns in incubators—was also targeted by gunfire, damaging several of the incubators and endangering these already vulnerable babies.

Although no deaths or injuries occurred, this attack underlines the urgent need for local authorities, law enforcement agencies, and the international community to take firm action to ensure that hospitals remain sanctuaries of care. Acts of violence against health care facilities not only disrupt the vital provision of medical care, but also cause lasting trauma to those who seek and provide care.

Zanmi Lasante and HUM remain committed to our mission of providing quality care to patients in Haiti, whatever the difficulties we face. We remain determined to continue our work, to restore the neutrality of health care facilities, and to support our community in these difficult times.

We stand in solidarity with our courageous and dedicated staff, our patients and their families, and all those affected by this attack. Together, stronger than ever, we are committed to healing, compassion, and hope.

Originally published on pih.org

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