Escalating Gang Violence Forces Thousands of Haitians to Flee Port-au-Prince

Haiti is facing a severe crisis as escalating gang violence in Port-au-Prince has forced thousands of residents to flee their homes. The situation has reached a critical point, with more than 2,400 people losing their lives to gang-related violence this year. The UN has reported the mass exodus of 5,000 individuals from the Carrefour-Feuilles district alone, after it fell under the control of gang members. As a result, local aid groups have suspended vital services, exacerbating the dire situation.

The inability of the government to suppress the violence has prompted the UN Security Council to consider deploying a multinational force to restore order. In areas plagued by months of gang warfare, residents are seen leaving with their belongings or seeking refuge at a local military base. Heartbreaking scenes captured by Reuters news agency show women grieving near the lifeless body of a man brutally murdered by the gangs. These victims, fortunate enough to escape, are desperately pleading for assistance in their fight against the violence.

Haiti has long been plagued by instability, natural disasters, and economic struggles, making it one of the world’s poorest and most violent countries. The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021 further exacerbated the situation, causing significant portions of the country to fall out of government control. Consequently, turf wars have escalated, resulting in a surge in refugees, rampant food shortages, homicides, abductions, and sexual violence.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has revealed alarming statistics regarding the scale of violence in Haiti. In 2021 alone, at least 2,439 Haitians have lost their lives, while 902 individuals have been injured, and 951 others have been kidnapped. The spokesperson for the UN rights office, Ravina Shamdasani, emphasized the barbarity of the violence inflicted upon the population and highlighted the establishment of vigilante groups, which have led to the lynching of 350 people since April. She further noted that out of the victims, 310 were suspected gang members, and one was a police officer.

Recent attacks in the capital have resulted in the death of 30 people and the injury of several others, according to provisional figures released by local rights groups. The worsening situation has forced the closure of the US embassy, which had already evacuated non-essential staff earlier. Haiti’s government vows to deploy all available forces to restore order in Carrefour-Feuilles, but their poorly equipped police are struggling to combat heavily armed gangs. The International Red Cross warns that the violence has dramatically escalated in a matter of days, hindering their ability to provide assistance as roadblocks set up by warring gangs prevent residents from receiving essential help.

The growing intimidation and violence against staff have compelled many international aid groups to withdraw from Haiti. Ann Lee, co-founder of the US-based crisis response group CORE, revealed the horrifying experiences of their team members, including the loss of a staff member’s daughter due to the inability to access medical care and the beheading of an employee’s brother. This crisis has deeply affected every member of CORE’s 100-strong team, with each knowing a victim of the violence.

In response to the escalating crisis, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has emphasized the urgent need for a multinational deployment with a robust use of force to disarm the gangs and restore order. Kenya has expressed its willingness to lead such a force, and the matter is currently under consideration by the UN Security Council.

The situation in Haiti is undoubtedly dire, with innocent lives lost, families torn apart, and communities terrorized by gangs. Urgent action is necessary to address the root causes of violence, provide protection for vulnerable populations, and pave the way for stability and peace in the country.