Political instability has disrupted life in Haiti since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021. Civil unrest in Haiti has worsened due to the presence of gang activity, nationwide protests, record-high inflation and the onset of a humanitarian crisis. As a result, the country is entering a terrible situation. On Oct. 18 during an emergency meeting, the United States ambassador to Haiti, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, briefed the United Nations (UN) Security Council on the dire state of the country. Protestors have taken to the streets calling for the resignation of current Prime Minster Ariel Henry. Henry signaled the potential rise of fuel prices and other peaks in inflation that could result in even higher food prices that the Haitian people have been forced to pay for their survival. Where almost 2.5 million people are facing hunger, ABC news reported earlier this week that UN organizations found “for the first time in Haiti, 19,000 people are facing catastrophic hunger levels.”
Sponsored by Mexico and the United States, the 10-page draft resolution brought forth to the UN conveys growing concern over the capital city, Port Au Prince. The Washington Post states the resolution expresses a “grave concern about the extremely high levels of gang violence as well as ongoing impunity for perpetrators, corruption and recruitment of children by gangs and the implications of Haiti’s situation for the region.” Armed gangs have brought violence and chaos to many neighborhoods surrounding the capital. Residents live in constant terror as to which area could be targeted next. The increase in inflation is also an unfortunate consequence of increased gang violence, where Haitians fear traveling near or through Port Au Prince. Children are not in school with the looming threat of danger, and parents and other civilians fear going to work with the significant number of sexual assaults, kidnappings and robberies. Prime Minister Henry asked the entire international community to help combat the humanitarian crisis caused by the almost month-long gang blockade of the Varreux fuel terminal.
Additionally, a cholera outbreak is spreading throughout the country, where due to gang activity, clean water is not reaching civilians resulting in higher rates of infection. Cholera disease is caused by the presence of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, which affects individuals through ingestion of contaminated food and water. The country faced a cholera outbreak in 2010, and before the confirmed Oct. 2022 cases, Haiti had gone almost three years without a single reported case. Due to the lack of clean drinking water, proper sanitation, food insecurity and health care inconsistencies, Cholera cases are rapidly on the rise again. Gang-related blockades have impeded incoming food, fuel, medical help and water resources, leaving conditions for Cholera to infect hundreds of people. The struggle of the Haitian National Police (HNP) to protect civilians means doctors and nurses can no longer reach the populations they aid, posing even more danger for cholera patients. The U.S. and Canada have already sent supplies to the HNP to assist in fighting local gangs who terrorize the streets with weapons. Prime Minister Henry did not elaborate on which type of assistance he asks for, but if the draft resolution is accepted, this could potentially include foreign military aid.
Known as the Americas’ poorest country, Haiti is still recovering from the 2010 earthquake’s economic and structural harm. The natural disaster left over seven billion dollars worth of damages and claimed an estimated 220,000 lives. The combined consequences of the 2020 global Coronavirus pandemic, history of political instability and now socio-economic upheaval has threatened the lives of everyone within the country’s borders.
The world’s first Black-led republic and independent Caribbean state founded by formerly enslaved people had international intervention before that was unsuccessful in the eyes of many. Haitians worry about the idea of outside international influence and care profusely for their citizens to be the force of change. The people of Haiti clearly need help, but is the right answer international intervention? The situation in Haiti is worsening daily, and international assistance may be the answer. However, the political unrest in the country is a foundational issue that has yet to be formally addressed. Haiti’s strong history and prospect for change look toward a bright future, but the country is currently struggling with societal unrest.
To learn more about Haiti’s history, the New York Times’s “Haiti Ransom Project” piece is a great one. Follow local and national news reports for more timely updates on the changing situation in Haiti.