Photo by Cole G from Unsplash
Haiti is experiencing a cholera outbreak and its highest peak of gang violence in decades. Understanding the country’s crises requires having the context of the root causes and how they are interconnected. As Avril Benoît, Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders says in an interview with Vice News, “There’s no doubt there is a connection between the political crisis, the security crisis, the economic crisis, and this cholera outbreak.”
“I didn’t wish for this to happen. But as it happens, I thank God. Because God decided it wasn’t time for me to die” (Camesuze Favillien.)
In Haiti, violence between rival gang members is at its highest peak. Nevertheless, it is the most vulnerable who are burdened by the violence. Innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire are victims of stray bullets. Gang violence became more prominent after years of foreign military and UN peacekeepers left Haiti in 2017. As a result, kidnapping for ransom and fighting for territory have become normalized. In late 2019, Gangs created blockades to Haiti’s main fuel terminal when the government announced to end fuel subsidies.
In addition to the increase in gang violence, Haiti’s political climate has not been ideal for decades and the assassination of Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, made the precarious situation worse. In April 2021, Moïse announced his resignation which was to end in February 2022. Shortly before his assassination, he appointed Ariel Henry as Prime Minister. This appointment was controversial because the opposition believe Moïse’s term should have ended on Feb. 7th, 2021 – not in 2022, therefore, he should not have the power to appoint a new prime minister. Ultimately, Moïse’s assassination complicated an already delicate situation in Haiti. Gangs are taking over the capital, forcing families into exile, and causing hundreds of innocent casualties. According to human rights, groups nearly 3000 lives were lost in 2022. The statistic includes two Haitian journalists who were killed while reporting the violence in the capital.
Haiti’s government asked for international assistance as it battled with health, energy and security crises, however, Haitians are resistant to this due to the troubled history of foreign interventions in Haiti. The U.N. Peacekeepers play a controversial role in Haiti’s social upheaval. Haiti has had a complex history with foreign intervention, including its occupation by the United States from 1915-1934. Haitians believe foreign intervention has not provided Haiti with long-term solutions, instead, foreign intervention has created more dire problems for the nation, such as the cholera outbreak. Sources claim that UN peacekeepers deployed from Nepal to Haiti in 2010 brought Cholera, a diarrheal disease A cholera outbreak in Haiti was linked back to a sewage leak from a U.N. camp where Nepalese peacekeepers were staying. Statistics from a Humans Rights Watch report that the incident has led to the death of nearly 10,000 Haitians and 820,000 infections ( Human Rights Watch, 2022.) Furthermore, UN peacekeepers reportedly fathered and abandoned hundreds of children in Haiti during their mission.
Despite this. Despite ALL the decades of hardships. Haitians are beautiful and courageous spirits and remain hopeful for a prosperous nation. As Anderson Cooper from CNN said, “Like all countries, Haiti is a collection of people: rich and poor, well-educated and not, good and bad. But I’ve never met a Haitian who isn’t strong.”
The people take to the streets to protest the chaos and crime. They watch out for one another. They share what they can despite not having much for themselves. Their faith in God, keeps them going. They continue to display conviviality with others and lively conversations in the markets and down the laneways. Schools have resumed and are back to normal schedule. Gas is being distributed again since the disruption in late 2019. And sanctions have been placed on politicians and oligarchs from the international community. There’s a long way to go to build a thriving country and there are a lot of uncertainties, but as the author and digital product designer, Ryder Caroll, said, “No matter how bleak or menacing a situation may appear, it does not entirely own us. It can’t take away our freedom to respond, our power to take action.”
Haitians will continue to respond with courage.
Al Jazeera. (2022, September 13). Haitian journalists killed while reporting on violence in capital. Freedom of the Press News | Al Jazeera. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/9/13/haitian-journalists-killed-while-reporting-on-violence-in-capital
Guardian News and Media. (2022, October 19). US-backed foreign intervention has led to the disaster in Haiti | pooja Bhatia. The Guardian. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/oct/19/us-backed-foreign-intervention-disaster-haiti-un
YouTube. (2023). YouTube. Retrieved January 29, 2023, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYDpYdT_CqU&list=WL&index=188&ab_channel=VICE News