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Faith Nyasuguta

A recent report from the U.N. migration agency reveals that nearly 580,000 people in Haiti have been displaced due to escalating violence from clashes with armed gangs since March. This alarming figure highlights the severity of the crisis gripping the Caribbean nation.

Haiti has a long history of unrest, but the situation deteriorated significantly at the end of February when gangs launched coordinated attacks. Armed gunmen seized control of police stations, opened fire at the main international airport, which remained closed for almost three months, and stormed the country’s two largest prisons.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) released a report on Tuesday stating that the displacement of over half a million people is primarily due to residents fleeing the capital, Port-au-Prince, to other provinces that are ill-equipped to support them. 

In March, the IOM had reported more than 362,000 internally displaced people in Haiti. Since then, the number of internally displaced individuals in the southern region” already devastated by a 2021 earthquake” has more than doubled, rising from 116,000 to 270,000.

/Briefly news/

“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 noted.

In the first three months of the year, over 2,500 people were killed or injured across Haiti. The National Police, understaffed and outgunned by the heavily armed gangs, has been unable to control the escalating violence.

Marie Jean, 49, and her two children were forced to leave their home in Port-au-Prince after her husband was killed by a gang in February. They are now living in a public school. “I lived in a comfortable home that my husband worked hard to build,” Jean told The Associated Press. “Now I’m living in a situation that’s inhuman.”

Juste Dorvile, 39, is also taking refuge in a public school with her 12-year-old daughter and boyfriend, constantly hearing gunshots. “Every day we’re hoping that we survive,” she said.

With gangs controlling at least 80% of Port-au-Prince and key roads leading to other parts of the country, many people are living in makeshift shelters, including schools and educational institutions now hosting over 60,000 individuals. Gangs have also been extorting fees from those using the highways and blackmailing drivers to recover their hijacked trucks, while police presence remains scarce.

Haiti’s new acting prime minister, Garry Conille, who was appointed last month along with a new Cabinet, attended a ceremony on Tuesday where over 400 officers graduated from the police academy. It is hoped that these new officers will help curb the gang violence. Conille reminded the graduates of the population’s reliance on their dedication to combatting insecurity. “You need to know that you are not alone,” Conille said. “You are the hope of the population at this crucial moment in our history.”

/Latino Rebels/

Violence is also increasing outside Haiti’s capital. Last week, armed gangs attacked families in Terre-Neuve, a village in northern Haiti, forcing more than 1,000 people to flee to safer areas.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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