Haiti’s newsreel : endless concerns…

It is becoming routine, each and every week to talk about the security situation in the country, simply because it has reached almost apocalyptic proportions, The dual epidemics of heightened criminal activity and resurgence of the Covid-19 is increasingly making life a living hell for a lot of people; forcing others to seek shelter elsewhere, in effect becoming internally displaced people in their own country. In a letter to the authorities, the local branch of the international organization World Vision, pled with the authorities to immediately help relocate internally displaced persons back into their own homes. As part of the International Refugees Day, the organization asked that the government ensures the safety and protection of thousands of people who have been displaced, including women and children. According to World Vision, an entire generation is at risk, as children are exposed to recurrent violence that affects their wellbeing. The uncontrolled gang violence that erupted since June 1st in various neighborhoods across the capital has caused people to flee from their homes, sometimes without parents and relatives, seeking shelter elsewhere, away from the gang turfs. As these displaced people take to shelters, the Covid-19 pandemic also creates a situation where new contamination begin to rise.

Meanwhile, because of gang turf wars in Delmas2, the Center that cares for Covid-19 patients in the area, next to Mirebalais university hospital and St. Luc hospital in Tabarre,one of the largest Covid-19 treatment centers in the country is in a bind; caught between blocked roads and stray bullets for well over a week, is forcing the center to contemplate closing its doors, according to the Center’s Director, Dr. Lunick Santiague. The public health center which opened in early May, when the new wave of contaminations began to spike is struggling now through a tragic phase where the wailing of the sick is drowned by the detonations of automatic weapons and the fear of stray bullets. According to the center’s director, when they first opened, they had around 31 patients within the first 10 days but in recent days, as the Covid-19 infection rises, the number of patients brave enough to come to the center dropped to seven(7), reflecting a worrying trend.; these patients are usually gravely ill  for several days before arriving at the center as ambulances cannot access the center, stable patients are forced to stay in the hospital and staff cannot come to work as access is blocked by the gangs. The government is powerless to control gang activities despite its avowed commitment to equip the center and help patients in need of medical attention.

In other news, the main food depots in the northern part of Port-au-Prince, near the old Hasco factory were raided by armed gunmen who invaded the place looted the facilities. The gunmen also allowed ordinary people to also come in and loot without nary an attempt from the police to intervene and stop the looting which went on well over two days. According to eyewitnesses, on Friday, armed men stormed the stores, breaking down barricades and invading the premises. Unperturbed by security forces, who shot warning shots in the air to disperse the growing crowd, the armed men succeeded in gaining access to such stores as Mache Ti Toni and looted without any intervention from the police forces. Calls from both the Prime Minister and the President were not heeded, and the looters continued their actions. While the damages caused rose to the millions of dollars, it is clear that the helplessness and inability of the government to control such actions point to a more insidious problem: the authorities can no longer ensure the respect for private property as insecurity and uncertainty reigns supreme; and neither can the leadership, through their action/inaction control unemployment, food insecurity and general angst among the general population. Although the President offered some reparations to the victims; that is not a permanent solution to the fundamental problem of lawlessness and insecurity.

President Jovenel Moïse, returning from a trip to Turkey went on the airwaves to promise yet again his government’s determination to root out the criminal gangs and to provide reinforcements to the police. This is Mr. Moïse’s first public statement since armed clashes began in Martissant on June 1, 2021. The president used the occasion to promise those internally displaced due to the gang activities, and those who were looted over the weekend, that help is on the way. He further blamed the clashes in Martissant on the fact that the criminal gangs are aiming to prevent the inauguration of a new power station in Carrefour. Mr. Moïse named various criminals elements who over the years have been either neutralized or run out of the country to suggest that his administration will find resources to address the increasingly dangerous security situation. While calling on the international community to help him restore peace in the country, he was quick to point out that the appeal for help does not mean a call for the return of foreign armies on the territory. Though he suggested that importing ammunitions now and supplying bandits are becoming much more difficult, the reality on the ground suggests otherwise. With constant bombardment and detonation of arms since the gangs started fighting at the beginning of the month, it is clear that 20 days of armed clashes cannot be explained in the context of ammunition supply tightening, but rather that the gangs are well armed and not out of stock anytime soon.

Dela Harlley

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