The nation of Haiti is being invaded by criminal gangs that rape, kill and starve the population. Haitian police have failed to stop the violence, leaving citizens turning to justice into their own hands as Haiti plunges into its biggest crisis in more than a decade.
The head of UNICEF in Haiti tells CBN News that 80% of the Caribbean nation’s capital city is in the hands of more than 200 criminal gangs.
“Right now, the humanitarian situation is really catastrophic,” said Bruno Maes, UNICEF representative in Haiti. “It’s actually one of the worst crises that Haiti has gone through in the last decade.”
Port-au-Prince is now almost completely surrounded and cut off from the rest of the island.
“Armed groups have been isolating parts of Port-au-Prince, they have been using siege tactics,” said Jean-Martin Bauer of the UN World Food Program.
In recent weeks, 165,000 Haitians have been forced to flee their homes after gangs committed a wave of murders and rapes, but the displaced civilians only ended up suffering more in makeshift camps.
“We live in misery. We can’t find food. There is no drinking water,” said Joseph Wilfred, one of the shelter’s administrators. “We do not live as humans, we are humiliated.”
Christians at a Protestant church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, cry out to God, June 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Aid agencies warn that half the country is now at risk of starvation.
“Violence in Haiti also has to do with resource control over valuable resources and one of these is food and we have seen fights over farmland, we have seen food trucks looted, we have seen humanitarian warehouses being looted,” Bauer said.
Also caught in the crossfire: an estimated three million children facing acute malnutrition.
Parents have been forced to take their children to hospitals for safety as gangs attack neighborhoods in their battle for turf and control.
“Parents cannot take care of their children,” said Govania Michel, a staff member at Fontaine Hospital in the capital. “Most of the children who arrive are malnourished children who cannot find food.”
Anger and frustration mount against Haiti’s national police, unable to quell the violence.
The UN says more than 1,600 people were killed, injured or kidnapped in the first three months of the year.
“Despite all their efforts and all the cooperation in equipment, training and contributions they receive from the international community, the Haitian police cannot at this moment defend their people,” said María Isabel Salvador, United Nations special envoy for Haiti. .
So Haitians like Mertil Marcelin have joined a vigilante group that has been hunting down and allegedly killing gang members.
“Today it is not the United States, France or Canada who will come to get us out of our situation. It is with a machete that we can get out of the situation,” said Marcelin, a member of the Bwa Kale movement. .
“That kind of justice engenders a totally different system of insecurity,” warns Kevin Falde.
Falde is an American missionary in Haiti.
“People are getting sick of it, so there’s been a movement going on where a lot of local people have gotten involved in a kind of vigilante justice where you can say what you think about it, but it’s just desperation, that’s where they are. right now,” Falde told CBN News.
Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, calls Haiti a “forgotten crisis” when she recently toured the island trying to rally international support.
“I’m here to sound the alarm on Haiti,” said McCain, who is executive director of the World Food Program.
Falde is asking people around the world to pray for Haiti.
“Pray for hope, pray that God will provide for you. Pray that something happens in the country, with the government, that things can stabilize and the course can be changed here,” Falde said.