Healing Haiti's Wounded



A patient at the Doctors Without Borders clinic in Port-au-Prince. >>More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII)

The Gingerbread House stands on a crowded street, a towering, mustard-colored structure that housed U.S. troops during the military intervention of 1994. Today, Doctors without Borders (MSF) runs the space as a rehabilitation clinic.

Opened in December 2004, the clinic has become a lifeline of hope to Haitians. As violence has continued relatively unabated in the post-Aristide Haiti, the number of gunshot victims has steadily risen. Since opening, MSF says its personnel have treated nearly 2,500 people for violence-related injuries, including 1,500 gunshot victims and 500 stabbing victims. In the last month alone, there were 47 gunshot victims from Cite Soleil.

As Haiti continues to implode, havens of medical care have become beyond necessary for survival. Walking through the wards of the Gingerbread House, as locals call the clinic, victims as young as 10 years old lay on beds being cared for by their mothers. Jean Michelit turns to his mother and winces. A six-inch bullet wound, bound by Frankenstein-like stitches, starts on the top of his forehead and reaches just above his right eye. Jean's story is similar to those of the many other gunshot victims strewn about the ward's two floors.

Nearly two weeks ago, 10-year-old Jean was walking home from school and had just entered his home in the Grand Ravine neighborhood when he suddenly fell to the ground -- struck in the head by a gunshot that no one heard and no one expected. The area had been peaceful until that time. Jean and his family's lives were changed instantly. Jocelyn, his mother, is no longer able to care for her other two children. Jean is paralyzed from the waist down and requires full-time care.

In the next bed lies Jean Paul, a blanket stretched to his neck and a towel cooling his forehead. His story has a twist to it. Running gun battles between rival gangs (and sometimes with U.N. troops) have been an almost daily occurrence lately. Jean Paul happened to be driving in exactly the wrong place during one of these battles. As the gangs fired, he and his friends shot back with 9mm handguns, hitting two of them. After about five minutes, Jean Paul was bleeding.

Ron Haviv / VII


"I got shot in my neck," Jean Paul said. "My cousin went to the U.N. troops to ask for help. They asked if he was American and since he wasn't, they couldn't help."

The U.N. thought he was dead. So did the ambulance workers who came and took him away. Still alive, doctors told him he would be dead in six hours. Then, "The doctor who did the surgery told me if I don't die, I would never have the chance to walk again," Jean Paul said. "The bullet is still inside me."




A soldier wounded in the Cite Soleil slum walks with crutches. >>More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII)

As more and more patients are brought in from a wider area of Port-au-Prince, MSF's actions will help for now. But what of the future? One MSF worker spoke of a desire to cure not only the physical, but also the social breakdowns caused by these injuries. Watching Haiti die from the inside -- an exercise in futility.

"I don't know how many days, how many weeks, how many months I will have to stay here," said Jean Paul.

Award-winning photojournalist Ron Haviv is on the ground in Port-au-Prince documenting the run-up to Haiti's presidential and legislative elections. >>About This Blog

By Ron Haviv |  February 3, 2006; 08:55 AM ET  | Category: 
Previous: Glimmers of Hope in Cite Soleil | Main Index | Next: The Plight of Haiti's Children

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This is one of the sad stories of Haiti. The misery continues while the world pretends they have no idea where Haiti is located.

Haiti shows how inhumane we as people in this universe, this world, this very ground can be. Hell has fallen in Haiti. Pay attention...it's the end of the world. The entire world will one day experience some condition of that nature.

Posted by: Jay | February 3, 2006 02:39 PM

I am currently in Haiti and have been for a month. This is the 9th year I have come here. In the last 2 years since the U.N. has come, I have seen the U.N. on numerous occasions helping the hatien people. The quote from the man about his cousin bothers me because I can't believe for even a minute that a U.N. officer would not treat a hatien, or even have to ask is he is an American. I feel the U.N. is doing a good job here and are getting alot of bad press. I am an American, and don't feel any special treatment from the U.N. whatsoever. They are kind and caring men and women just trying to do their job in an impossible situation

Posted by: jan Fremling | February 3, 2006 04:19 PM

Un saluto!

Posted by: fabio | February 3, 2006 04:39 PM

"The quote from the man about his cousin bothers me because I can't believe for even a minute that a U.N. officer would not treat a hatien, or even have to ask is he is an American. I am an American, and don't feel any special treatment from the U.N. whatsoever."

As an American, you cannot speak for the Haitian people. Just remember that!!!

Posted by: margarette rateau | February 3, 2006 06:15 PM

I for one would like to congratulate the Post and Ron Haviv on their decision to cover the Hatian elections in the format they have chosen. I believe that the uniquely changing political landscape in Haiti warrants a weblog approach, and the impactful and honest style of Mr. Haviv's photography.
I will be leaving for the Dominican Republic later this month for 2 years with the Peace Corps and have been studying politics in Hispaniola this past semester in Miami. These elections are of the utmost importance to Haiti and the DR, but also to the United States. To date, I have yet to see the U.S. media duly recognize the importance of these elections, and am glad that the Post finally did.

Posted by: Michael Menelli | February 3, 2006 10:56 PM

To the person that thinks that Hell has fallen in Haiti - I am not sure if you have ever been to Haiti but if you have I think it is extremely offensive to make such a comment. Take a step outside of Port-au-Prince to the countryside and you will see that yes there is poverty and people are dying from hunger and disease BUT the Haitian people remain proud, beautiful, and spiritual. There is no resemblance of hell in the countryside, which is where the majority of Haitians live.

Posted by: Ellen | February 4, 2006 07:28 AM

Having just returned Monday from two weeks in Haiti, during which I spent three days in Gonaives and the remaining time in Port au Prince, I would like to echo my appreciation for what MSF is doing. I volunteer with Healing Hands for Haiti as a prosthetist and had the chance to work with many MSF patients and can attest firsthand to the incredible job they are doing saving peoples lives.

Posted by: Al Ingersoll | February 4, 2006 07:34 AM

What Haiti needs

France to repay the 21.8 billion dollar it owed Haiti

Reparations for slavery

France not mingled in Haiti's internal's affairs

Superpower, wanabe superpowers and late comers to the imperial game to leave Haiti alone by not imposing phony civil society fronts, arming Haitians mercenaries, training/supporting death squads, financing opposition press with the goal of disenfranchising Haiti's poor majority and contained us in poverty and foreign "debt".

We don't want your MINUTSHA, USAID, IRI, NED, CIDA, CIA, RMCP, European union, "free trade" policies, and whatever else you may cooked up in the future in order to subjugate us.


Posted by: margarette rateau | February 4, 2006 12:54 PM

What Haiti needs

France to repay the 21.8 billion dollar it owed Haiti

Reparations for slavery

France not mingled in Haiti's internal's affairs

Superpower, wanabe superpowers and late comers to the imperial game to leave Haiti alone by not imposing phony civil society fronts, arming Haitians mercenaries, training/supporting death squads, financing opposition press with the goal of disenfranchising Haiti's poor majority and containing us in poverty and foreign "debt".

We don't want your MINUTSHA, USAID, IRI, NED, CAG, CIDA, CIA, RMCP, European union, "free trade" policies, etc... and whatever else you may cooked up in the future in order to subjugate us.


Posted by: margarette rateau | February 4, 2006 12:59 PM

Amen Ms. Rateau

Posted by: concerned citizen | February 4, 2006 01:31 PM

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