As violence in Haiti spikes, aid groups struggle to help – KXAN Austin

As violence in Haiti spikes, aid groups struggle to help – KXAN Austin


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Rise in violence has exacerbated hunger and poverty in Haiti, while preventing aid agencies from addressing these problems in a country whose government is struggling to provide basic services.

Few volunteers are willing to speak up about the cuts on file – perhaps concerned to attract attention after the kidnapping of 17 people from the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries in October – 12 of whom are still held hostage.

However, several confirmed, without giving details, that they had sent some workers out of the country and were forced to temporarily suspend relief efforts.

Gang-related kidnappings and shootings have prevented aid groups from visiting parts of the capital Port-au-Prince and beyond, where they had previously distributed food, water and other basic goods.

Serious fuel shortages have also prevented the agencies from reaching their full capacity.

“It’s getting worse in every way,” said Margarett Lubin, Haiti director of CORE, a US nonprofit organization.

“You can see the situation worsening day by day and affecting life at all levels,” said Lubin, adding that aid organizations had gone into “survival mode”.

Few places in the world are as dependent on aid organizations as Haiti, a nation often referred to as the “Republic of NGOs”. Billions of dollars in aid have been poured through hundreds – thousands by estimates – of aid agencies as the government grew weaker and less effective.

Shortly after the President’s assassination on July 7, Prime Minister Ariel Henry took over the leadership of a country that is still trying to regain political stability. Almost all the seats in parliament are vacant and there is still no fixed date for long postponed elections, although Henry said he would expect them early next year.

Currently, fewer than a dozen elected officials represent a country of more than 11 million people.

And the gangs have power in the streets.

More than 460 kidnappings were reported by the Haitian National Police this year, more than twice as many as last year, according to the United Nations Integrated Bureau in Haiti.

The agency said Haitians “live in hell under the yoke of armed gangs. Rapes, murders, thefts, armed attacks and kidnappings continue to be committed on a daily basis against the population who are often left to their own devices in deprived and marginalized areas of Port-au-Prince and beyond. “

The agency added: “Without being able to enter these areas under the control of gangs, we are far from knowing and measuring the extent of these attacks and what Haitians really experience on a daily basis …

“Humanitarian actors have also limited their interventions because of the security risks to their staff and access issues,” she added.

Large organizations like the United Nations World Food Program have found alternative ways to help the people, such as using barges instead of endangered trucks to move goods from the capital to the southern region of Haiti. But smaller organizations do not always have such resources.

World Vision International, a California-based organization that helps children in Haiti, told The Associated Press that the violence caused it to misplace at least 11 of its 320 employees and was taking undisclosed safety measures for other employees.

Water Mission, a nonprofit in South Carolina, said it was considering relocating to other areas in Haiti and said kidnappings and widespread violence forced them to change staff plans to keep people safe.

“These issues sometimes slow down our ongoing project work for safe water,” said the organization. “However, we continue our work despite any temporary interruptions that may occur.”

The trouble comes at a time when the need for help grows. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake in mid-August destroyed tens of thousands of homes and killed more than 2,200 people. The country is also grappling with the recent arrival of more than 12,000 deported Haitians, most of them from the United States

In addition, according to UNICEF, more than 20,000 people fled their homes this year due to gang violence, with many living in emergency shelters in extremely unsanitary conditions and the pandemic. The UN agency estimates that it will need $ 97 million over the next year to help one million people in Haiti.

Among them is Martin Jean Junior, a 50-year-old who used to resell scrap. He said his home was set on fire in mid-June during police-gang fighting.

“I’ve been on the street since then,” he said, lying on a blue sheet that he had spread on the hard floor of a school in Port-au-Prince that was temporarily converted into accommodation.

Things could get worse soon: A prominent gang leader warned Haitians this week to avoid the embattled Martissant community as rival gangs will fight each other in the days ahead.

“Not even the dogs and rats will be saved. Everything that moves, trucks, motorcycles, people, is seen as an ally of Ti-Bois, “said the gang leader known as” Izo “in a video, referring to a rival gang. “Martissant will be declared a combat zone and those who ignore this warning will pay with their lives.”

Most already avoid the area for fear of being kidnapped, shot or cargo looted. That has largely cut off the country’s southern peninsula because the main road runs through the neighborhood.

People recently killed by crossfire in Martissant include a nurse, a 7-year-old girl, and at least five passengers aboard a public bus. The violence in August forced Doctors Without Borders to shut down an emergency clinic that had served the community for 15 years.

Liman Pierre, a 40-year-old mechanic, said he recently had to cross Martissant to go to work and saw four dead, including two elderly neighbors and the motorcyclist who was transporting them.

“The criminals kill with impunity and leave the dead to the dogs,” he said. “Anyone who is not eaten by dogs is simply set on fire. That can not be.”

Pierre is sleeping on the streets of Port-au-Prince for the time being, fearing that he will have to cross the Martissant to get home: “You don’t even have the opportunity to visit parents and friends who are in trouble.”

“The state does not exist,” said Pierre. “Criminals have been in power for over six months. It’s December and we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. “


Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.