For Haiti, 2022 begins much like it did at the end of last year, amidst widespread violence and political instability.
Over the past 12 months, the situation has improved little. Haitians face a surge in gang attacks and kidnappings, fuel and power shortages, a deepening political impasse and a deadly cholera epidemic.
“You never know what will happen tomorrow,” said Jude Jonathas, senior program manager for the Mercy Cause Humanitarian Group. Jonathas told Al Jazeera in October that gang violence hit the streets of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, where he lives.
“It’s as if we live every minute. We go out, [and] I don’t know if I will come back,” he said.
As the country continues to reel from several overlapping crises, Al Jazeera looks at the past year’s developments in Haiti and what 2023 has in store.
increase in gang violence
Gang violence is not a new problem in the Caribbean nation, but it is on the rise, especially after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021 exacerbated months of political instability and created a power vacuum. I have.
Haiti’s de facto leader, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who elected Moise to the post days before he was killed, faces a crisis of legitimacy, and several Haitian civil society groups have called for inclusiveness. urges him to hand over power to an interim government. a request he refused.
Armed gang leaders also used pressure tactics, including blockades of fuel terminals, to try to get Henry to resign.
After months of violence, one of the most powerful armed groups, the G9 Gang Alliance, led by former police officer Jimmy “BBQ” Cherisier, imposed another fuel blockade on Port-au-Prince’s main petrol terminal in September. imposed. Varreux terminal.
The move comes after Henry’s government announced plans to end petrol subsidies, sparking public outcry among Haitians already struggling with rising costs of living.
Weeks of lockdown have led to water and electricity shortages across Port-au-Prince, including hospitals trying to treat cholera patients. Each crisis exacerbates another, with UN officials saying Haiti is staring at a “cholera time bomb” as instability and violence cut off entire regions.
Haitian authorities regained control of the Varreux terminal in November, allowing gas stations to reopen and encouraging street celebrations. It’s a rare bright spot amid simmering concerns about armed groups wielding force in the country.
When gang violence reached crisis levels in Port-au-Prince in October, Haiti’s prime minister, Henry, took action to restore order and ensure a humanitarian corridor that would allow fuel and water deliveries in the capital. , called for international troops to be sent to Haiti. .
The demand had the support of the United Nations and the United States, but many Haitians, including civil society leaders, rejected the possibility of foreign intervention, sparking renewed protests.
Since then, Washington-led efforts to launch a “non-UN mission led by a partner country” to Haiti have stalled, and President Joe Biden’s administration has so far agreed to lead such a force. Couldn’t get another country to do…
Instead, the United States and its allies, particularly Canada, have imposed a series of sanctions against Haitian politicians and others allegedly supporting gangs and other destabilizing activities, including drug trafficking and government corruption. is imposed.
“Implement sanctions on high-profile individuals involved in corruption and supporting and promoting gang violence in Haiti [and] We will take drastic steps to stop the illegal trafficking of arms from the United States to Haiti,” Velina Elysee Charlier, an activist for the anti-corruption group Nou Pap Domi, told the US House Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing in late September. rice field.
Cholera vaccination campaign
Meanwhile, Haitian health authorities continue to grapple with the cholera outbreak.
By drinking water or eating food contaminated with Vibrio cholerae, the disease causes symptoms such as severe diarrhea, vomiting, and thirst, and can rapidly spread in areas without proper sewage treatment and clean drinking water. can spread to
Haiti’s first outbreak in more than three years was reported in early October after the outbreak subsided in 2019. More than 17,600 suspected cases have been detected since then, according to the latest statistics from Haiti’s Public Health Service (PDF).
Cholera immunization campaigns began in some of the most affected areas on 19 December, after Haiti received its first shipment of more than 1.1 million doses of the vaccine.
“The arrival of an oral vaccine in Haiti is a step in the right direction,” said Laure Adrien, director general of Haiti’s Ministry of Public Health and Population, on Dec. 12, with another 500,000 vaccines arriving in the coming weeks. He added that it is expected to do so.
Over the past year, an increasing number of Haitians have left the country in search of asylum and opportunities in Latin America and elsewhere in the United States.
Aware of the scarcity of employment and visa opportunities in countries such as Chile and Brazil, thousands of people have taken steps such as crossing the Darien Gap, a dangerous jungle passage between Colombia and Panama, on foot. It’s been a long journey. Some have taken boats in hopes of reaching the coast of Florida.
The Haitian was one of many migrants and refugees forced out by U.S. authorities at the southern border with Mexico over the past year. However, in early December, the Biden administration announced it would extend the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian citizens already residing in the United States for another 18 months.
The administration cited Haiti’s situation “including socio-economic challenges, political instability, gang violence and crime” as reasons for extending the TPS, which protects Haitians from deportation and grants U.S. work permits. .
But over the past year, thousands of Haitian migrants have been repatriated from Haiti’s neighbor, the Dominican Republic, the only country on the island of Hispaniola. In November, a senior UN official called on Dominican authorities to halt the transfers, which have continued.
Cleanse Murder Investigation
More than a year after armed mercenaries stormed Moise’s Port-au-Prince home and assassinated the Haitian president, the country’s investigation into what happened appears to have stalled.
Dozens, including several Colombian citizens, have been arrested as part of an ongoing investigation into the causes leading to the July 7, 2021 assassination. But the process is moving slowly. Many questions and theories remain as to why Moyes was killed.
The US Department of Justice says about 20 Colombians and some Haitian-American groups participated in the plan. The plan initially focused on kidnapping Moyes in an alleged arrest operation, but a Justice Department official said it “ultimately led to a plan to kill the president.”
The United States has indicted three men for their involvement in the assassination.
Request for help
As 2023 begins, international organizations are calling for more help to meet the crisis Haiti faces.
“Things have now reached a breaking point. This crisis will not pass and we need renewed and stronger humanitarian assistance,” said Jean-Martin Bauer, Haiti’s representative to the United Nations World Food Program, in December. said on the 19th.
Bauer said more than half of Haiti’s population, about 4.7 million people, are facing a food crisis. This includes the 19,000 residents of the Port-au-Prince district, plagued by violence in the Cité Soleil, who are suffering from “catastrophic” levels of food insecurity.
“What Haiti is currently experiencing is more than just a series of instabilities that subside as part of the regular cycle the world has become accustomed to. Unless we act quickly and we all act more urgently, it could get worse,” he said.