Haiti Update #2
After our last two blogs about Haiti (Blog 1 – Blog 2) we have not posted an update as the situation has not only not improved, but has actually worsened significantly. It is hard to put into words the horrific atrocities that our business partners, and friends, whom we've worked with over the last 20 plus years, their families, their friends, their community and their home are going through. It is hard to write about how this is directly affecting our artists, what we are hearing directly from them, while trying to maintain their anonymity for their own safety. For this reason, it has taken longer to write another update, but we have also seen the importance in speaking out about what is going on with our dear friends.
On November 28th, 2023, The Guardian wrote an article titled “Haiti’s gang wars having ‘cataclysmic’ impact on access to food staples.” In it, it highlighted how Haiti’s brutal gang wars have now spread from the capital to key farming heartlands. This has caused the displacement of 22,000 Haitians amid murders, looting, kidnappings, and widespread sexual violence. These gangs are armed with semi-automatic rifles and pistols, and have burned houses, attacked irrigation systems, stolen crops, stolen livestock, and demanded “taxes” for farmers to be able to access their own fields. As if this wasn’t enough, kidnappings and torture for ransom have also become frequent, gang rapes of women including young children has also increased. They have used the systemic employment of violence and intimidation to control the country by terrorizing them. Due to the displacement of many farmers, food staples have been hard to produce and have began creating a larger food shortage in an already impoverished country. According to the UN’s food agency, it estimates that nearly half the country is going hungry.
On the same day, the United Nations published an article titled “Haiti: Gangs move into rural areas as Turk says new force ‘must be deployed’”. This article focuses on the report published by UN human rights officer and the UN political mission in Haiti. It talked about the Bas-Artibonite district, about 100 kilometers from the capital). Between January 2022 and October 2023, it is estimated that at least 1694 people have been killed, injured or kidnapped in Bas-Artibonite. It mentioned the story of Darleine, a 22-year-old woman, who was dragged off a bus in March 2023 by gang members, held captive for more than 2 weeks. Two weeks in which she was repeatedly beat and raped. Unfortunately, as a result of this, a few weeks after she was released, she committed suicide. The thing about this, is that this is NOT an isolated case. Gangs have continued resorting to sexual violence against women and children, to murder, to terrorize “rival” villages. On Monday, December 25th, two little girls under the age of 10 along with 2 adults were killed in Haiti by armed men from the 400 Mawozo gang who carried out a deaddly attack on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. This is on top of the 4 family members who were kidnapped. Just a week prior, at least 5 people were killed inlcuding a mother and child in the town of Ganthier. This past year alone (2023), 3960 people have been killed, 1432 injured and 2951 kidnapped in Haiti due to gang related violence…. Again, 2023 ALONE. Police are unable to stop them, and the people have continued to suffer the consequences.
As far as our artists, they are not immune to any of this. They have been victims of unwarranted violence, random attacks, loss of basic privacy. We just received a voice message from one of our partners, which we will not share to keep their annonimity, but in this message they said:
"Sometimes it is hard to speak on the phone because bandits, the bandits think you are antennas, you see. Umm... whether you are talking to the police or whether you are talking to another gang to attack them, you see. Sometimes it is difficult speaking on the phone using the phone because there are some who just kill people for no reason... they just find you with a phone, they just shoot you. Or they make you stand, they make you stand apart, and they ummm checking your phones if your conversations about them with people, you see, that's why when people are speaking out on the phone in Haiti they need to delete the messages. Yeah, if they are conserning bandits, you see. Yeah, because they do not allow that."
Basic freedom of privacy, freedom to live is being robbed from them every single day. It is sad to think that two days ago, January 1st, 2024, Haiti celebrated its 220th year of independence, yet they are living this continous nightmare day in and day out. We hope for the day where our Haitian friends and their communities are able to safely go to work, go to school, and just live their lives. In the meantime, we continue to support them as best as we can by continuing to work with them, which we can only do thanks to your continued support. And to finish off our blog, we would like to share a message we just received from one of our artists: a message that shows the resilience, pride, and hope that Haitians are known for:
"In the circumstances l take To thank god because he saves my Life during the battle of the year. But l think so the 2024 year Will be the year success parallele at the 2023 year. I hope To always have the health, the strength, more orders, so that l could have the money in order To help my Children, my friend, and anothers that have To need.l profit the occasion To wish you merry christmas and happy new year."