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Updates from Port-au-Prince, Haiti

AVSI staff shares with Italian Media the current situation on the ground and how AVSI is responding

This article is a summary of this interview on Il Sussidiario.net

Current situation in Port-au-Prince

As of May 2024, Gangs still control significant parts of Port-au-Prince, including the city center where economic activities and institutions are located. Although there is a slight reduction in gang presence in some residential areas like Pétion-Ville, checkpoints controlled by gangs are common, affecting the movement of cars and people. Recent violence includes the killing of two American missionaries and a local collaborator during a robbery in an orphanage. Pharmacies and hospitals have been looted and burned, leading to shortages of medicines and essential services. The closure of borders with the Dominican Republic has exacerbated supply issues.
 
A transitional Presidential Council has been established, but has not taken decisive actions. Elections are tentatively scheduled in ten months, but skepticism remains about their feasibility given the current conditions. A Multilateral Security Support Mission led by Kenyan forces, along with troops from other countries, is expected to arrive in mid-June to help restore order. Opinions are mixed regarding the potential effectiveness and impact of the mission, with some skepticism due to past international interventions leading to issues like cholera and violence.

Life in Port-Au-Prince

People in Port-au-Prince are bracing for the situation to worsen. Schools in some areas have been closed for over three months, leaving children without education. Access to medical treatment is extremely difficult due to severe medicine shortages, exacerbated by the closure of land and air borders with the Dominican Republic, a major source of imports. Clashes between gangs and police have resulted in significant civilian casualties, with official data showing over 2,000 victims in the first quarter of the year, a 50% increase from 2023. Residents live in constant fear, uncertain if their family members will return home safely from even the simplest errands or work trips. Despite the resilience of the Haitian people, there is a growing sense of fatigue and concern for the future.

Continuing Operations Amidst Violence

AVSI manages to operate across the country, including the capital and four other offices in the South, Northeast, and Northwest regions. Following the initial outbreak of violence, the organization reduced its staff to essential personnel. As the pressure in certain neighborhoods decreases, there are plans to bring back additional staff. AVSI has remained active in the most dangerous areas of Port-au-Prince, relying on local staff who live nearby to minimize travel risks. In the capital, 80% of AVSI’s work focuses on humanitarian aid and essential services. This includes providing psychological and psychosocial support, distributing vouchers to those directly affected by gang violence, and addressing food security to ensure children have access to education. These urgent interventions are complemented by ongoing development activities.

Future Expectations

There is hope that the forthcoming international mission will help counter the gangs and restrict their areas of influence. However, there is also concern that any resulting clashes might further endanger the civilian population.
Aldo Gianfrate/ AVSI