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Amid unprecedented violence, Haitians face starvation, displacement, and trauma

March 28, 2024 – As extreme and unpredictable violence in Port-au-Prince persists, Haitians across the capital city face a multi-dimensional crisis with displacement, hunger, and acute health risks, along with the near constant fear of injury, rape, physical violence, and loss of life.

Given this dire moment for the Haitian people – 1.64 million of whom are on the brink of famine – the situation will get exponentially worse if left unchecked. All actors in Haiti must prioritize the protection of civilians, while the international community must use their influence to peacefully resolve the political crisis and provide more humanitarian funding to save lives now. Local, Haitian-led humanitarian organizations, particularly those led by women, should be first in line to receive this support which will allow them to scale up their critical work that is happening across the country, including on the frontlines of the crisis.

“The recent spike in violence which started on February 29 has been exceptional in its intensity and magnitude. I would describe the general situation in Port-au-Prince as tense, volatile, and unpredictable,” said Muhamed Bizimana, Assistant Director, CARE Haiti. “Everyone is worried, living in fear with heightened levels of distress and trauma. And there is no predictability of when and where violence will occur, on the one hand, and uncertainty as to whether the violence will stop or subside in the coming days.”

A CARE team member in Haiti, who works with Bizimana, underscored this sentiment, speaking of “widespread panic” in his Port-au-Prince neighborhood due to “incessant gunfire.” He also described harrowing scenes over the weekend where dozens of armed individuals broke into his home, threatening his family, and looted and kidnaped some of his neighbors. Having since abandoned his home together with his family to find temporary refuge in a nearby area, also under repeated attacks from gangs, he said: “For the past four days I have only slept between 20 minutes and an hour per night.”

This violence has put an already vulnerable population – especially those living in densely-populated neighborhoods in the lower part of Port-au-Prince – at further risk of depravation, with shelter, food, health, protection, and water/sanitation needs among the most critical. As of January 2024, before the uptick, nearly half the country, approximately 5.5 million people, were in need of some form of assistance. The humanitarian community struggled to meet the escalating needs in 2023 when roughly one third of Haiti’s Humanitarian Response Plan was funded. This year, the funding gap looks set to widen as needs skyrocket. To that end, through the first quarter of 2024, only 7% of the Plan has been funded.

Today, many neighborhoods across the capital are now deserted as families are either stuck inside their homes for fear of getting caught in the violence – including sexual violence which has risen sharply in recent weeks – or fleeing to quickly-established displacement sites or with relatives or friends. Fighting since late February has forced approximately 33,000 Haitians from their homes in Port-au-Prince, adding to a displacement crisis from earlier rounds of violence. The country now counts around 362,000 Internally Displaced Persons, sheltering both inside and outside the capital.

The violence is also exacerbating Haiti’s severe hunger crisis, as food has become difficult to access due to major supply chain disruptions (such as airport and port closures) and the inability to move freely and safely around the city. According to the IPC food classification system, more than 4.97 million Haitians are acutely food insecure, 1.64 million of whom are experiencing emergency levels of hunger, just one step away from famine-like conditions. Moreover, with only one in five Haitian hospitals functioning, the violence has decimated the country’s health system.

Despite the need, the space for humanitarian activities – which are continuing – has rapidly shrunk, constrained by very limited access for humanitarian assistance, as well as logistical challenges.

“Although the worst of the violence is in Port-au-Prince, all of the Haitian people are suffering from this emergency. This includes those in the provinces where supply chains and transportation of goods and people are either cut or severely disrupted by limited access and violence, as well as other disruptions. All this has spread the impact of the crisis to an unimaginable level,” said Bizimana. “Time and again, the Haitian people are tested by crises. And time and again, they demonstrate incredible resilience.”

CARE in Haiti

CARE has worked in Haiti since 1954. Over the past several years, up until now, the organization has provided cash, nutrition, livelihood, and gender-based violence support via five field locations outside the capital. While this work continues, CARE is mobilizing a response to extend many of these services to newly-displaced individuals, with a focus on women and girls, in Port-au-Prince. This work will be carried out by local partners.

For media inquiries, please contact: usa.media@care.org.


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