Haiti is experiencing an unprecedented period of violence and disarray.
Haiti is experiencing unprecedented insecurity, including kidnappings, rapes, and killings by vicious gangs that outnumber and outgun the Haitian National Police. The gangs control large swaths of the capital, including all roads in and out of the city, the ports, the petrol terminal of Varreux, which supplies more than 70% of the country’s gasoline, and all supply chains including those for food and medicine,
This insecurity, coupled with the galloping inflation (34%), the devaluation of the Haitian gourde (140 HTG to $1), skyrocketing prices, shortages of just about everything, and the brain drain, is dragging thousands into deeper poverty.
Examples of price hikes from before these events and now:
- Before: 250 gourdes per gallon
- After: 570 gourdes per gallon
- 353 gourdes per gallon
- 670 gourdes per gallon
- 352 gourdes per gallon
- 665 gourdes per gallon
Since gas stations are closed, the only way to get gas is on the black market where prices are going through the roof: it can cost as much as 5,000 gourdes for a gallon of gasoline and 4,500 gourdes for a gallon of diesel (Le Nouvelliste).
One egregious result of misguided US policies is that more than 80% of food staples like rice and cooking oil are imported, which makes them unaffordable for struggling families that represent the majority of Haitians. The UN estimates that today 4.7 million of the 11 million inhabitants experience hunger, or extreme hunger, and more than half of them are children. When adding the widespread strikes, and closed schools, businesses and hospitals, it becomes evident that Haiti is on the brink of a catastrophe.
The closing of hospitals is particularly alarming at a time when more than 1,000 cases of cholera have been identified in different regions indicating that it has already spread. Most of the patients are children.
Gangs have existed in Haiti for generations. They are financed by high-level politicians and by some prominent businesspeople and families. Before, they were confined to the slums and would come out when asked to support a political candidate chosen by those who financed them or to kill a journalist or an academic with whom they disagreed, or someone who was an inconvenient opponent.
The assassination of President Jovenel Moise produced shock and disarray that opened doors to opportunities gangs and their benefactors seized. Whereas before they fought for territorial control inside the slums, now they do it to grab large parts of the capital.
A group of Haitians, informally called the ‘Montana Group’, is working on creating a broad coalition in order to find a “Haitian Solution” to this crisis. The current government proposed a counter-solution. So far the two sides have been unable to compromise.
At last, the international community is talking about creating a humanitarian corridor to get emergency supplies to those suffering from hunger. It is possible that there will be a military intervention by an international force.
Restoring public safety is paramount. The reality is that Haiti has no army as it was disbanded in 1995 to stop military interference in politics and for having conducted more than a dozen coups. The only functioning defense is the Haitian National Police, which needs to hire a considerable number of additional troopers and provide extensive training, competitive salaries, modern equipment, and supplies. This will take time and funds - neither is currently available.
The United States assigned Dr. Ariel Henry as Haiti’s Prime Minister, meaning his legitimacy is questioned by many since he was neither elected nor in line to be the interim president as ascribed by the Haitian constitution.
We add our voices to those sounding the alarm to find an effective and rapid resolution to this crisis, a solution that must respect Haitians’ self-determination and agency, and put a stop to the country’s downward spiral. If not, Haiti may explode like a powder keg, many lives will be lost, and reversing the chaos will be much more costly.
More than ever we are committed to supporting our rural partner communities who rely on us to sustain them in these difficult times. Our Talia Farms regional development program continues to educate and feed the children attending the Patrice Lumumba school, supports the farmers and the small merchant women as they struggle because gangs prevent them from going to market, and we continue to develop our flood mitigating project to protect the farmland and surrounding communities during rainy seasons.
Thank you for your compassion, generosity, and unwavering support.