PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Large coils of new barbed
wire run along the fence outside Canape Vert hospital, and an armed
guard checks visitors for weapons.
Hospital security is the biggest challenge for the International
Committee for the Red Cross in Haiti, where patients have been shot
or dragged away by armed gangs during and after the rebellion that
ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February.
“If tomorrow we have a similar crisis, will people respect
the hospitals and see them as a place where the fighting should
stop?” asked Felipe Donoso, head of the ICRC in Haiti.
“The answer at this point is no. There has been a terrible
erosion of values here.”
The Geneva-based ICRC has spent thousands of dollars upgrading
security at hospitals in the capital Port-au-Prince and the
northern city of Gonaives. The group also is advising smaller
hospitals around the country on how to better protect their
facilities, Donoso said.
In the violent rebellion surrounding Aristide’s ouster on
Feb. 29, hundreds of wounded Haitians were brought to hospitals
such as Canape Vert.
But all too often, the fighting between Aristide opponents and
supporters continued inside hospital halls. Gun-toting gangs roamed
the wards, looking to finish off wounded enemies.
At least one man was killed in Gonaives’s public hospital,
and robberies and beatings occurred in hospitals all over the
country. Police were just as likely as gangs to barge into
operating rooms looking for enemies, Donoso said.
“Aristide supporters and police would rush in here and
rough people up,” said Marys Edmond, a nurse at Canape Vert.
“It was not an easy atmosphere to work in, and there’s
fear it will be like that again.”
A disarmament campaign by the U.S.-led multinational force of
about 3,600 soldiers has barely made headway.
For a month after Aristide left, French troops guarded Canape
Vert and other hospitals in Port-au-Prince. Now, American, Canadian
and Chilean troops join the French in regularly patrolling
Josette Bijoux, Haiti’s interim health minister, said in a
radio interview that she had asked the multinational force to
increase hospital patrols. “We are working mainly on security
right now,” she said.
Last month, U.S. soldiers burst into Canape Vert with M-16s at
the ready, pursuing a report of an injured American citizen. They