Haiti has been engulfed in political, economic and social conflict since the assassination of former president Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. The parliament has been ineffective as it struggles to govern amidst the recent earthquake and the prominence of gang violence. The crisis in Haiti does not only include one issue but rather multiple crises at once. The three most predominant crises are gang violence, the cholera outbreak and the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in August 2021.
The number of gangs in Haiti has been growing for the past five years. With around 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, stating 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.
Gangs developing strong political and economic footing have only made the crisis in Haiti worse by making gangs “mercenary partners of politicians and administrators,” according to the Global Initiative Report.
Recently, gangs seized Haiti’s fuel terminal, the country’s main source of energy, which sent 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 and 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 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.
Cholera Outbreak and Environmental Concerns
Cholera outbreak and environmental shock: “more than a quarter of all suspected cholera cases are children under 9.” Children are much more likely to contract cholera, according to the Health Ministry. Between October and December 2022, there were 13,672 cases of cholera, with 86% of hospitalizations within these cases. From 2010 to 2019, there were 820,000 cholera cases in Haiti.
U.N. agencies and Médecins 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 vaccine development for Haiti, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
There are also environmental concerns for Haiti, as a 7.2 magnitude earthquake shook the country in August 2021, leaving around 650,000 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 extends outwards from the capital and inflation rises, 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