The Republic of Haiti, roughly 700 miles from Miami, Florida, has faced unprecedented insecurity due to gang violence and the illegal flow of weapons. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2021 World Report, Haiti is experiencing one of the worst outbreaks of violence in decades. The United Nations also reported, from January to May 2022, kidnappings rose by 36% and homicides by 17%.
It has been almost two years since the assassination of Haiti’s former President, Jovenel Moïse. Unfortunately, the country still lacks a democratically elected government. There is still no elected president, legislators, or mayors. The people of Haiti are being terrorized, raped, murdered, and kidnapped daily by emboldened gangs financed and supported by powerful elites. Haiti has fallen into a more profound political uncertainty since 2021.
The power vacuum has allowed as many as 200 gangs in Haiti, and they control roughly 80% of Port-au-Prince, key ports, and roads, according to a study commissioned by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The government is not functioning to meet even the most basic needs of its citizens. Haiti Renewal Alliance(HRA), a disaster relief organization has reported that its containers, which consist of humanitarian relief supplies have been stuck at the port for months due to the insecurity crisis.
Women and girls are more vulnerable to gender-based violence. Gang violence, including rampant sexual violence, has shuttered schools, businesses, and healthcare providers, severely restricting humanitarian relief operations. Over the past several months, the pervasive insecurity has resulted in disruptions of humanitarian assistance to the country’s most vulnerable. More than 155,000 people remained displaced due to violence in Port-au-Prince as of late November, marking a nearly 80 percent increase since August. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported nearly 1,700 school closures in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area due to gang violence in late April of 2022, and the Office for the Protection of the Citizen (OPC) reported additional closures of hospitals and markets in Croix-des-Bouquets in early May of 2022. Critical and services-based institutions remain closed in 2023.
Haitians of all ages face powerful gangs who rule with impunity. Haiti continues to have the highest rate of kidnappings per capita in the world. The lack of rule of law poses additional threats to holding perpetrators liable.
According to the United Nations, 5.2 million people need humanitarian assistance, and have launched a humanitarian response plan to raise 720 million dollars to address the needs of the Haitian population. In addition to this crisis, the country has yet to recover from the catastrophic earthquake in 2010 where over 300 thousand people died and 1.2 million were displaced.