Haiti Update- March

Haiti Update- March

Posted by Maggie for It's Cactus on Mar 19th 2024

Haiti Update- March 

Heavily armed gangs, gunfire exchanges, attacks on international and local airports and neighborhoods, massive prison outbreaks, citizens displaced by the thousands…. Seems like a plot of a bad dream, a horrible nightmare.

But in Haiti, for its citizens and for our artists, it’s not a bad dream and it’s not a nightmare they will just wake up from, it’s their daily life, and has been for a long time. As we have mentioned in previous blogs, for years, Croix des Bouquets has been the center of violent gang crisis. The 400 Mawazo gang has long terrorized this beautiful city, long known to be a major center of artistic culture. They have murdered people including metal sculptor Anderson Belony, threatened many with violence and forced many citizens including our artists to pay for “safety”. Many believed that with the arrest and extradition of the 400 Mawazoo gang leader, the situation would improve; however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The gang crisis has now spread out of Croix des Bouquets and into the rest of Haiti.

Apart from what we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, in just the first half of this month, all these things mentioned above and more have been happening in Haiti. All devastating, heartbreaking, and, worst of all, true. Gang leaders now control 80% of the capital (Port-au-Prince). Early this month, police stations were attacked in order to distract authorities before storming two prisons, one in Port-au-Prince and another in Croix des Bouquets. This caused many police to be killed and the prison break of nearly 4,000 inmates including murderers, kidnappers, and gang leaders. Heavily armed gangs tried to seize control of Haiti’s international airport, which means leaving the city really isn’t an option, as the airport, which is said to be under siege by gangs, has been forced to close.

Even after a 72-hour state of emergency, which has now been extended, the situation continues to worsen. Just this weekend, gangs attacked two upscale neighborhoods in the capital leaving at least a dozen people dead on the streets, burning some of the bodies. According to the Associated Press, on man cried, “Abuse! This is abuse!”, as he stood near one of the victims. And it is abuse. The gangs continue cutting off supply to basic human needs such as food, water and fuel. People are being killed, innocent citizens are being terrorized, and 1.4 million Haitians are in the verge of famine. More than 4 million require food aid, sometimes eating only once a day or nothing at all. UNICEF announced on Saturday that one of its containers containing “essential items for maternal, neonatal, and child survival, including resuscitators and related equipment” were looted.

So where does this leave Haiti’s residents? Displaced. According to different sources, the violence has displaced anywhere between 200,000-300,000 Haitians due to homes being torched and citizens being raped, abused and killed. Schools and businesses are closed, the people are scared and the streets are empty. Help is not getting to them, leaving many humanitarians voicing the same concerns, “We don’t have adequate capacity to deal with the complexity of the need increasing”.

And our business partners, artists, and friends living in Haiti? They are not exempt; living in Croix des Bouquets, they have been in the center of this for years. They too have been displaced from their homes, having to flee, seeking shelter in empty streets and abandoned buildings. Some of them have found some refuge living in overcrowded shelters where people have to compete for a place to sleep, hope the food doesn’t run out as they wait in line for their turn, and share holes in the ground for toilets. They are having to leave the place they call home, the workshops where they work to provide for their families… everything they have worked for being left behind, looted, or destroyed.

Reaching out to them one said, “Hi my Chief, I am very well thank you… except the things are really difficult in Croix des bouquets… I had to go living in _____.” (For their safety we will not disclose.) When asking another one if he could sign his art he mentioned, “good evening big boss, the reason why the pieces are not signed is simple, there were guys with guns shooting me, I also got up and ran, so now I’m not in the area where I was anymore, it’s another place I’m looking for to be able to work my boss.”

Our artists are not giving up. At a time where many would have thrown the towel, our artists are continuing to do all they can to continue working, continue providing for their families, while trying to stay as safe as possible. At a time where food and shelter is scarce, they continue asking for orders to work, working and sending them in as quick as possible, and being thankful. We will continue supporting them as best as we can, providing them work which is all thanks to your continued support. 

If you have time, please also take a look at Joseph Odelyn's work, he is a freelance photojournalist based in Haiti who has been tirelessly documenting the situation in Haiti. Some of the images are graphic.

For more information: Look Into the Following Sources: