Like the coronavirus country coups in America lasting more than a year, Haiti had reported relatively few cases and deaths, allowing the country to shut down COVID-19 treatment centers for lack of patients.
But now, as some rich nations of the world are moving into a post-pandemic phase thanks to extensive vaccination campaigns, Haiti is in a struggle with its first serious fire of COVID-19.
The country, which previously hesitated to accept its allocation of free vaccines through the UN-backed COVAX mechanism on security and logistics issues, has not yet administered a single jab of coronavirus vaccines.
Last month, infections and casualties increased more than fivefold after the arrival of new variants, in what the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) called a “cautionary tale about how quickly things can go change with this virus. “
Two of the major hospitals treating COVID-19 patients in the capital Port-au-Prince announced last week that they were saturated. “We’re being cared for by patients,” said Marc Edson Augustin, medical director of St Luke’s Hospital.
Jean ‘Bill’ Pape, a senior Haitian expert on infectious diseases, said the country now was not as prepared as before. “We need to reopen new centers to increase the number of dedicated COVID beds,” he said.
Official coronavirus data remains relatively low in the nation of more than 11 million people: only 15,895 cases and 333 deaths have been recorded since the beginning of last year, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
However the data is limited due to low test rates and doctors say the actual number is probably much higher.
Recently, well-known figures, including a former senator and the head of the country’s pension agency, died from the coronavirus. The upward trend could be “catastrophic,” said Laure Adrien, director general of the Haitian Ministry of Health.
Poor health means that diseases can spread rapidly in the country, where poor neighborhoods are densely packed and an already overcrowded and shambolic health system depends on volatile donations.
The new wave also comes amid growing gang violence that impedes the delivery of what little health care is available.
Nearly 10,000 slum dwellers in Port-au-Prince have been fleeing their homes since the beginning of the year due to gang violence or fires – the origins of which are still unknown – according to a count of the United Nations.
Many residents of the Martissant neighborhood, scene of the latest gang clashes, escaped last week.
“Will there be an increase in this violence that will result in even more displacement in the coming weeks or months?” said Bruno Lemarquis, UN humanitarian coordinator in Haiti. “That’s the biggest question.”
St Luke’s Hospital warned Monday that it might have to shut down its COVID-19 unit as the violence made it difficult to carry oxygen to the production site in the poor Cite Soleil barracks.
In February, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, according to its French acronym) closed everything except the emergency department at the hospital in Cite Soleil which last year treated COVID-19 patients.
Lack of vaccines
Meanwhile, Haiti has not yet received a single vaccine against the coronavirus, although officials say they expect to receive 130,000 doses of AstraZeneca this month for COVAX, which aims to ensure that the world’s lowest-income nations get their share. part of vaccines.
The United States has also said it would donate a portion of six million doses in Haiti, even if officials did not specify an exact number or when they would arrive.
Some richer Haitians fly to Florida for their vaccines, like more than that 63 percent of American adults have received at least one stroke to date, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
💉 The situation is particularly acute in Central America and the Caribbean. Only 2 million people have been vaccinated in all in Central America and less than 3 million in the Caribbean – @DirOPSPAHO # COVID19
– PAHO / OMS (@pahowho) June 9, 2021
“Inequities in vaccination coverage are undeniable,” OPS director Carissa Etienne said Wednesday. “Unfortunately, the supply of vaccines is concentrated in a few nations while most of the world expects doses to fall.”
Back in Haiti, doctors say the challenge now will be to convince people to get vaccinated.
Ronald Jean, 38, head of a restaurant in Porto-Vecchio, said he was first afraid of the virus. But he said that before receiving a shot, “before the authorities should take the vaccine on television, we will see how it is done.
“And then I’ll decide whether or not to take it.”