Home News Why do aid groups stay in lawless Haiti?

Why do aid groups stay in lawless Haiti?


Haiti’s dire humanitarian situation once again in the spotlight After Thursday’s gang attack The missionary group, based in Oklahoma and working in the capital, Port-au-Prince, killed two Americans and the Haitian director of the group’s Haiti Mission.

The attack has left many wondering why American missionaries are still working in Haiti, given the country’s descent into severe violence and gang control of much of Port-au-Prince. 17 missionaries kidnapped in 2021 They were working for Christian Aid Ministries in Haiti during an attack in which a Haitian group kidnapped 16 Americans and one Canadian; a dozen hostages escaped and the rest were released weeks later.

While Haiti is no stranger to violence and instability, the situation has deteriorated significantly since the assassination of the country’s president in 2021. Jovenel MoiseSince then, the state has collapsed and gangs have flourished to fill the vacuum of state power.

This week’s massacre comes as Kenyan-led troops, funded by the United States and other members of the international community, are expected to arrive in Haiti in the coming weeks to confront gangs and help stabilize the country.

this Gangs now control much of the capitalThis includes critical infrastructure such as national highways and seaports, which support the import of basic food and other necessities in a country with minimal production capacity and heavy reliance on foreign goods.

Gangs now control or have influence over about 90 percent of the capital, the research team said. In many ways, Port-au-Prince is a vast open-air prison where most of its 6 million people cannot move freely and gang violence dominates their daily lives.

According to the latest UN data, gang violence has killed 1,160 people in Haiti from March 1 to May 20, including 136 women and 35 children. At the same time, there have been 294 kidnappings, including 6 children.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 160,000 people are currently displaced in the capital’s metropolitan area.

organize In March, it was reported that 15,000 Haitians, many of whom had been displaced previously by gang violence, were displaced in a week. The International Organization for Migration said in a statement that 10 displacement sites were emptied in a few weeks from February to March by people fleeing “waves of violence.”

About 59% of the country’s population lives below the poverty line, and nearly a quarter of children suffer from Chronic malnutritionAccording to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

Aid groups have been active in Haiti for decades, but their presence became more active after the devastating 2010 earthquake that destroyed entire parts of the capital and killed an estimated 300,000 people.

The international community has poured about $13 billion into Haiti since the earthquake, but some experts say that, rather than helping the country get back on its feet, Haiti’s institutions have weakened, leading to its current collapse.

“Individual aid programs may be good and help, but they are still part of a broader system that has undermined the state, reduced capacity and partly led to the current situation,” said Jack Johnston, a Haiti expert at the think tank Center for Economic and Policy Research and author of International Rescue.Aid Nation: Elite Panic, Disaster Capitalism, and the Battle for Control of Haiti

“In many ways, what has led to the rise in violence and insecurity is a lack of government intervention, a lack of capacity, and that’s largely a result of aid programs,” he said.

Aid groups say they are preventing an already dire situation in Haiti from getting worse — mass unemployment, rampant sexual violence, malnutrition and more. Some aid workers blame international governments for Haiti’s current instability, claiming they support corrupt politicians whose poor governance has led to the country’s collapse.

When the 2010 earthquake occurred, Nearly half of American households He donated to Haiti relief efforts, according to then-USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. Famous Haitian-born musician Wyclef Jean launched a massive donation campaign that raised about $16 million, but Accused of squandering large amounts of money.

When UN peacekeepers were deployed in Port-au-Prince from 2004 to 2017, they were accused of Have hundreds of childrenthen abandoned them and their Haitian mothers. Other peacekeepers have been accused of running a Child sex ringUN peacekeeping operations have also triggered Deadly cholera outbreak The disaster killed at least 10,000 people and sickened hundreds of thousands more.

While there are a large number of aid organizations in Haiti, the extensive presence of Christian aid groups in the country, often run by missionaries, has been one of the most controversial.

Although missionary groups in Haiti have run some successful projects to provide food, clothing and education to local people, especially children, Haitians often view them with great distrust.

After the earthquake, some missionaries were found to be running orphanages and were accused of illegal child trafficking. Ten missionaries sentenced to prison for attempting to bring 33 undocumented children to the United States.

Many mission groups have a habit of sending outside volunteers, often from the United States, a practice that has drawn criticism, saying the groups make Haitians completely dependent on foreign aid from Americans, a patron-client arrangement that only perpetuates poverty in the country and fails to build local capacity.


Unlike elsewhere, where armed groups are often ideologically driven and tolerate or assist aid groups in helping people, Haiti’s gangs exist to enrich themselves or satisfy themselves by preying on civilians — for example, through extortion or rape.

Gangs used to have more of a moral code, allowing aid workers to do their work largely uninterrupted. But that changed in 2021, when the state collapsed.

“Ten years ago, if you were an aid worker, Haitian or foreign, or a missionary, people had a lot of respect for you,” said Pierre Espérance, executive director of the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights, a Port-au-Prince group. “Now, these gangs don’t respect any institution in Haiti, not just aid groups.”

Over the past three years, criminal gangs have attacked and taken over aid distribution centers. School and HospitalIn a few cases, school children Launch a fundraising campaign to pay the ransom for classmates.

But gang control of seaports also complicates aid efforts. Gangs not only control some of Haiti’s most important docks, they also control the roads in and out of the capital’s seaports. This has hampered the delivery of fuel, paralyzed the country and often prevented aid organizations from distributing vital necessities such as food and medicine.

This has led to rampant inflation across Haiti. The prices of basic foods such as rice have skyrocketed.

Not too possible.

Despite the challenges and dangers many aid groups have faced over the years, aid groups continue to work in Haiti.

“When there’s a need, we should act,” said Allen Joseph, a Haitian who is a program director for Mercy Corps, one of the largest international aid organizations operating in Haiti. “And in Haiti, there’s always a need.”

Mr. Joseph and other aid workers said the recent violence against Haiti missions would likely prompt their own aid groups to take more security precautions, which would cost more.

Mr. Joseph said that as violence intensified last year, the charity had to adapt its operations to provide security for its employees, most of whom are Haitian. He said that each of the charity’s offices in Haiti is now equipped with “hibernation bags” in case employees are trapped and unable to return home due to violence. Each hibernation bag contains a mattress, sheets, cooking materials and hygiene necessities.

Earlier this week, housing for the charity’s international staff came under attack from gang violence, with bullets flying and staff forced to lie prone on the floor or take shelter in bathrooms – often the safest places in a building because there are few windows.

“No one is immune. We live and work every day with the fear of being kidnapped or killed by armed groups,” said Mr. Joseph.

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