Haitian media exposes trafficking of hepatitis C-infected human blood from Dominican Republic to Haiti

Seizure of these blood bags reveals dangerous blood trafficking operation between Dominican Republic and Haiti

Saint-Domingue – A journalistic chronicle of an investigation conducted by Haitian newspaper Ayibopost has revealed an already intractable crisis in relations between the two countries, sparking a scandal. Same territory: Republic of Haiti and Dominican Republic.

Investigations revealed that after 27 bags of blood were seized at the Dominican border on October 13, there would be a serious incident of human blood transfer. What is even more serious is that they claimed that some of them were infected with the new coronavirus. Hepatitis C.

The following is the full report from Haiti’s digital newspaper Ayibopost:

Officials from the Ministry of Health and Public Security (MSPP) confirmed to AyiboPost that Juana Méndez’s customs agents intercepted a shipment of 27 bags of blood from the Dominican Republic on October 13, 2023, some of which may have been infected with hepatitis pollute. . and relevant departments in the Northeast sector.

Dr. Jean Denis Pierre, director of the Northeastern MSPP department, told AyiboPost: “Preliminary results show that hepatitis C contamination is suspected in some samples, but no HIV/AIDS was found.” The doctor said that the final results will be communicated to the public.

These drugs can cure more than 95% of people infected with hepatitis C. But the seizure highlights the dangerous blood trade between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Preliminary results showed suspected hepatitis C contamination in some samples, but no HIV/AIDS was found. (…) The final results will be communicated to the public .

Such trafficking outside state control remains illegal. However, the situation was exacerbated by the urgent need for blood bags at the North East Hospital Centre. Anderson LaTotu, the agency’s director, said the agency’s nearly dysfunctional regional Red Cross is unable to meet the need.

Anderson Latortue told AyiboPost: “A bag of blood purchased in the Dominican Republic can be sold for 4,000 to 5,000 pesos.”

Nearly 400,000 people live in the northeast, which borders the Dominican Republic. According to MSPP data from 2015, there are 42 health facilities in the region, about 70% of which are public.

The decree of October 13, 2020 establishing the Organization of Blood and Blood Products (ONASAPS) transfers the distribution of blood in Haiti to the National Blood Transfusion Center (CNTS) or the National Blood Safety Program. By law, any import of human blood must go through the agency, which is responsible for testing the products before they are distributed.

But Dr. Ernst Noel, the agency’s director, said the agency was poorly equipped and underfunded and unable to perform its role. “Last year we were able to collect only 22,000 bags of blood, while the country needs 60,000 to 80,000 bags of blood every year,” the doctor said.

CNTS has 15 blood transfusion stations and 20 warehouses to store blood collected across the country. “The vast majority of warehouses in provincial towns, including two buildings in the northeast, are not functioning,” said Dr. Ernst Noel.

Two hospital officials in the region who spoke to AyiboPost said that in this case, doctors in border towns advised families in need to go to the Dominican Republic to buy blood.

A bag of blood purchased in the DR can fetch 4,000 to 5,000 pesos.

“When I send patients to have their blood drawn by the Haitian Red Cross, they find nothing,” said Dr. Leslie Manigat, director of Ouanamint Medical Center.

In addition, the hospital provides prescriptions to patients who frequently cross the border. “When a patient comes in with a bag of blood, the first thing we do is check in the lab that the fluid is in good condition before use,” continued AyiboPost’s Dr. Leslie Manigat.

L y M Medical Center, another medical institution in the department, confirmed this practice. “If we have a patient with severe anemia, we will give him a prescription so that he can buy blood elsewhere, but we will not do that for him,” said one L e M who did not give his name to the Ministry of Health officials said. The hospital’s telephone switchboard.

When I sent patients to get blood from the Haitian Red Cross, they found nothing.

MSPP is aware that this practice exists. “I have been informed of the circulation of these (imported) bags in the sector, but the seizure of 27 bags is the first time we have managed to prevent such an operation,” Dr. Jean Denis Pierre, director of the MSPP, told the department’s AyiboPost.

According to eyewitnesses, the illegal shipment was intercepted at 2 p.m. during an inspection of Haitian migrants voluntarily leaving the Dominican Republic.

In addition to tensions between the two countries over Haiti’s construction of a canal on the Mascarene River, 34,000 Haitian migrants have returned home voluntarily, according to a report released last October 16 by the Group Support for Returnees and Refugees (GARR).

“We saw a young man leaving the Dominican Republic with a box,” Harold Joseph, deputy district representative for Juana Mendez, told AyiboPost.

According to regional authorities, the transporter did not have the authority to transport the blood. “A well-known doctor from the area then came to ask for the blood bag and explained that it was a request for a patient who needed a blood bag,” the deputy continued to AyiboPost.

Harold Joseph did not want to reveal the identity of the doctor. He said the information has been forwarded to the relevant authorities for necessary follow-up.

Dr. Jean Hugues Henrys, Cabinet Director of the Minister of Public Health and Population, confirmed to AyiboPost that an investigation into the matter is ongoing.

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Cover image: A bag of blood is in the final stages of collection during an event at the University of Notre Dame de Haiti School of Medicine in Pucote on August 11, 2023. © Instructor David Lowrance/AyiboPost

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