UN Assesses Total Displaced by Gang Crisis

Refugees from Haiti's capital are overwhelming other provinces
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 19, 2024 6:20 PM CDT
UN Assesses Total Displaced by Gang Crisis
Prime Minister Garry Conille leaves after attending the inauguration of Haiti's new cabinet in Port-au-Prince on June 12.   (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Surging violence in Haiti from clashes with armed gangs since March has displaced nearly 580,000 people, according to a new report from the UN migration agency, a figure that underscores the magnitude of the Caribbean nation's crisis. Haiti has long faced unrest, but at the end of February, gangs unleashed coordinated attacks with gunmen taking control of police stations, opening fire on the main international airport that remained closed for nearly three months, and stormed Haiti's two biggest prisons. The report released on Tuesday says the displacement of more than a half-million people is mainly due to people fleeing the capital of Port-au-Prince for other provinces, the AP reports, which lack the resources to support them.

In March, the agency reported more than 362,000 internally displaced people in Haiti. Since then, the violence has more than doubled the number of internally displaced in the southern region—already ravaged by a 2021 earthquake—from 116,000 to 270,000. "Nearly all those internally displaced are currently hosted by communities already struggling with overburdened social services and poor infrastructure, raising further concerns about tensions with the potential to spark further violence," the report said. With more than 2,500 people killed or injured across Haiti in the first three months of the year, Haiti's National Police, understaffed and overwhelmed by gangs with powerful arsenals, has been unable to bring the situation under control.

Marie Jean, 49, and her two children were displaced from their Port-au-Prince home after her husband was killed by a gang in February. She's now sheltered with her children at a public school. "I lived in a comfortable home that my husband worked hard to build," Jean told the AP. "Now I'm living in a situation that's inhuman." With the gangs in control of at least 80% of Port-au-Prince and key roads leading to the rest of the country, many are living in makeshift shelters, including schools and learning institutions that host more than 60,000 people. The gangs have also been charging fees for those wanting to use the highways or blackmailing drivers to get their hijacked trucks back on the roads, where police presence is scarce.

(More Haiti stories.)

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