A team of Maritime health-care professionals is stranded in Haiti due to widespread civil unrest, which has put their chances of safely departing the country at risk.
“There’s violent protests and demonstrations. People are being asked for money when they get up to roadblocks, some people are being taken for ransom, there’s just a lot of violence,” said Rachel Blaquiere, a registered nurse who is originally from New Brunswick.
Blaquiere, who works out of Halifax, has traveled to Haiti several times to provide clinical care to Haitians in need of health care.
“We do different clinics and we just meet with the patients to see what their problems are and help them in whatever way we can. So, it’s often like high blood pressure, different kind of infections, diabetes,” she said.
This trip to Haiti was in connection with a Haitian based organization called G.E.A.C.H.
Blaquiere, along with registered nurse Cathy Davies and physician Dr. Heather Dow — both from New Brunswick — have been working in the Haitian mountains for the past two weeks.
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Their clinical services have been led and organized by Dr. Emilio Bazille, a Haitian-born physician who now lives in Ottawa but regularly travels to the country to provide health-care supports.
“We love helping out wherever we can. We just chose a bad time unfortunately to come,” said Blaquiere.
According to Blaquiere, the clinics were operating smoothly until violent protests started erupting over Haitians demanding President Jovenel Moise’s resignation over allegations of corruption and a lack of support for the people of Haiti.
“They have their current president here, they feel isn’t really doing anything to help them out. He promised food on everyone’s plate and money in everyone’s pocket but that hasn’t happened,” said Blaquiere.
For the most part, Blaquiere says the group didn’t encounter any issues until roadblocks started being built throughout the region.
“On the way to one of the clinics, we did run into about three different roadblocks. To the point where our driver did need to call in a SWAT team to kind of escort us through one of the larger roadblocks,” she said.
Blaquiere said the driver even approached police to ask for assistance but was told they weren’t able to help them.
Currently, the group is staying in Bazille’s residence in Saint-Louis-du-Sud, about four hours west of the capital of Port-au-Prince.
While Blaquiere says they feel safe where they are, the group was supposed to have flown home on Feb. 12, but have been advised by SWAT teams not to leave the compound.
“Right now, we’re looking into getting a helicopter that can pick us up close to where we are and hopefully they can take us straight to the airport,” said Blaquiere.
The airport is in Port-au-Prince, about a five to six-hour drive away, says Blaquiere.
Global Affairs Canada wrote in an email statement that they are aware of the situation in Haiti and monitoring it closely.
“Canada is following developments in Haiti closely. Our diplomats on the ground are in touch with their counterparts from other countries, as well as with local authorities, to share information and advice,” wrote Richard Walker, a spokesperson with Global Affairs Canada.
The embassy in Port-au-Prince has been closed due to ongoing uncertainty.
Blaquiere says they are awaiting support and direction from the Canadian embassy, as well as trying to figure out a way to safely leave their compound.