Haiti has been experiencing political, economic and social conflict since someone assassinated the former president, Jovenel Moïse, in July 2021. Haiti’s parliament has become ineffective as it struggles to govern amidst the recent earthquake and the prominence of gang violence in Haiti. The crisis in Haiti does not only involve one issue but rather multiple crises all at once. The three most predominant crises in Haiti are gang violence, the cholera outbreak and the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in August 2022.
The number of gangs in Haiti has grown over the past five years. With more than 95 gangs occupying large portions of Port-au-Prince Bay, the crisis in Haiti has accelerated into deeper chaos. Organized crime disproportionally affects vulnerable communities, especially children. UNICEF’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean has warned that women and children have become targets of gangs. She stated that “more and more incidents of gang violence have involved children and women in the past few weeks and months,” referring to kidnapping, rapes and killings.
The crisis in Haiti is worsened by gangs developing strong political and economic footing as they make themselves mercenary partners of politicians and administrators. Recently, gangs seized Haiti’s fuel terminal (its main source of energy), thus sending the country into an economic and health crisis. Many schools and hospitals have no power and small businesses have shut down completely. The Inter-American Foundation (IAF) has increased funding for 22 grassroots organizations focused on helping Haitians adapt to the various political, economic and environmental collapses. The fuel crisis has prevented more than three-quarters of hospitals from operating. The IAF has been able to supply the country with community clinics and ambulances to meet the pressing need for medical care in the midst of the cholera outbreak.
In terms of suppressing gang violence, there is disagreement on which strategy is the best. The U.N. has issued $5 million to help those that the violence has affected, as humanitarians try to negotiate with the gangs. Other experts and Haitians suggest that intervention may be a more plausible step as a large portion of money meant for more diplomatic relations has been relatively ineffective.
Health and Environmental Concerns
More than a quarter of all suspected cholera cases are children under 9. Cholera is much more likely to infect children, according to the Health Ministry. Between October and December 2022, there were reports of 13,672 cases of cholera, with 86% being hospitalized. From 2010 to 2019, there were reports of 820,000 cases in Haiti. U.N. agencies and Médicins sans Frontières (MSF), along with local organizations, have distributed medicines and treatments throughout the country. They have also established some clean water centers free of cholera while pushing for the development of vaccines for Haiti. Human Rights Watch believes that there is still a great deal that is necessary to resolve the health crisis in Haiti.
There are also environmental concerns for Haiti. A 7.2 earthquake shook the country in April 2021, leaving 620,000 people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. The earthquake destroyed 70% of schools. UNICEF is continuing to provide water, food and shelter to vulnerable populations.
As violence proceeds, the crisis in Haiti will require more aid and assistance to help rebuild and develop a more resilient political and economic order. Organizations within Haiti and around the world have already begun to provide relief but more must happen to ensure vulnerable peoples are safe.
– Anna Richardson