In a Haiti in crisis, residents of Port-au-Prince recount their “nightmare”

In a Port-au-Prince made “unlivable” by gangs, Haitians say they are living “a nightmare”. A month after the announcement of the resignation of the contested prime minister, the transitional authorities are waiting and the population is paying a high price for the long political and security crisis.

Jameson Jacques lost his parents when “bandits” – members of armed gangs – burned down his house. Since then, he has lived with his children in a makeshift shelter in Port-au-Prince, the capital largely controlled by gangs.

“If I had the means, I would have already gone to a provincial town with my three children,” says the thirty-year-old. “Port-au-Prince is becoming unlivable. »

Samson Dorsena, a craftsman, says he has “never experienced a situation like this”.

“We are used to complicated situations, [mais] this time is worse,” he says.

Coordinated attacks

The poor Caribbean country has suffered from chronic political instability for decades. But at the end of February, the gangs, whose violence was already ravaging entire sections of the territory, launched coordinated attacks against strategic sites, saying they wanted to overthrow Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

The latter, appointed a few days before the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, was strongly contested. He was not even able to return to his country after a trip to Kenya.

On March 11, the same day as a meeting between Haitians and several organizations and countries such as the United States, he announced that he would resign to make way for a “transitional presidential council.”

A month later, this body supposed to try to restore public order and stability has still not been installed, against a backdrop of disagreements between stakeholders, but also with the outgoing government.

“It is essential that all Haitian political actors continue to […] move towards an inclusive political transition in Haiti,” commented Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, on Thursday.

” Run “

Meanwhile, the population lives to the rhythm of gang attacks, gunshots and shortages of all kinds.

Stéphane Dujarric warned that the food stocks of the UN World Food Program (WFP) risked being exhausted by the end of April in Haiti, where the international airport and the main port remain closed, disrupting the help arrives.

“I’m living a nightmare. For several weeks, I have no longer been able to go to the city center,” explains Junior Fontus, a 43-year-old drinks seller, met in a refugee center in Port-au-Prince.

“Without my business, how am I going to feed my five children and pay the fees” necessary for their education? he asked himself.

The business of Mirlene Cleone, a merchant, also suffered. “When I’m on the street, I can’t sell. From time to time, we have to run. Many people left to live in the provinces. This greatly affects our clientele,” she says.

Between March 8 and 27, more than 53,000 people fled Port-au-Prince, the vast majority to escape gang violence, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The UN has warned of a “cataclysmic” situation, with 1,554 killed in the first three months of 2024.

Overwhelmed hospitals

Overwhelmed, the hospitals that are still functioning operate in complex conditions.

Between February 29 and April 9, La Paix University Hospital admitted 194 people with gunshot wounds, the head of this establishment, Paul Junior Fontilus, told AFP.

In particular, there is a lack of oxygen and blood bags necessary for patients, he explains.

“Thanks to the contributions of certain partners, we are able to hold on, but I don’t know for how long […]. It’s really difficult,” he said with alarm.

The establishment is in even greater demand as the Hospital of the State University of Haiti is closed because it is occupied by gang members.

“Before, I said I wouldn’t leave the country. I advised young people not to leave, that it was better to pool our savings together to start a business,” says Charles Jean Wilderson, a 38-year-old entrepreneur.

“But now, when there is a kidnapping and a gang claims it, we can no longer advise young people to stay. A young person who leaves today is right,” he says.

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