In a very literal sense, the population of Haiti has been “under attack” in recent months, a situation reflecting “Crimes Against Humanity” as highlighted by the International Criminal Court: “Attack directed against any civilian population. . . pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy to commit such attack. . .” Many of us who live and work in Haiti have made personal and professional commitments to continue providing health services to the Haitian population including addressing the urgent cholera outbreak, but a humanitarian corridor enabling safe passage and reliable communications systems are essential.
Also, for many of us whose lives are intimately connected with the communities we serve, there is an ongoing puzzlement as to both what has been happening and whether there will be action to relieve the Haitian population from the crimes being committed against them. The current situation in Haiti has gotten much worse than even four months ago, and the evidence is overwhelming: NYT: Horror on the Streets of Haiti.
- Inflation is at its highest in a decade, significant increases in price of fuel and food along with consistent shortages.
- Violence in the forms of thefts, kidnapping, rape (including gang rape), assault, and murder. Haiti’s capital taken hostage by brutal gangs.
- Organized criminal activities have proliferated with the intent to obstruct and physically destroy humanitarian, business, and governmental activities. Nov 2022 Gang Update. This raises the question, is Haiti under gang control? Haiti under gang rule FRANCE 24 English
- Obstruction of transport, sale and delivery of food, fuel, medicines, and other essential supplies.
- People in Port-au-Prince are forced to “shelter in place” or to flee their homes as gunfire continues and burning tires and barricades block streets, making it very difficult for people to conduct the most basic daily activities. Haiti: People face cholera and famine-BBC.
- Daily injury and death of members of the Haiti National Police due in part to insufficient funding, proper personal protection, and weapons deficits in the context of well-armed gangs continually increasing in size and strength – which begs the question as to where the guns are coming from as well as the constant flow of ammunition.
- A cholera outbreak, which was left unaddressed for several weeks due to the fuel blockade. In October 2022, during his visit to Haiti, Brian Nichols stated that, “this outbreak puts 1.2 million Haitians at direct risk of infection and death.” https://youtu.be/o9OzS-bN5Do. The health facilities lack IV fluids, catheters, tubing, and PPE to battle Cholera safely and effectively. Cholera- Haiti (who.int).
- A dire food security situation “with armed gangs in charge of key transport routes in Haiti, the country could see famine conditions, unless a robust humanitarian aid plan is put in place,” Jean-Martin Bauer, from WFP, warns. For the first time in the western hemisphere, parts of Haiti are considered at Level 5 (“catastrophic”) for hunger and death from starvation and 48% is at Level 3 for food insecurity. Catastrophic-hunger-levels-recorded-for-the-first-time-in-haiti
- A reduction in essential workers as there is an increased number of Haitian healthcare professionals who are resigning, requesting visas, and leaving the country.
- The situation is evolving into an international security problem. Violence and instability have spread into the neighboring Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and Florida are receiving large numbers of irregular migration, and Turks and Caicos is under strain after 300 Haitian migrants were recently detained.
Further fueling the above crisis is what seems to be a general lack of leadership, strategy, and visible support from the Haitian government and the international community for the population, who are now – more than ever before – left alone to contend with these horrific conditions. If the situation remains unaddressed, things will only continue to worsen, and we will continue to witness Haitians dying in Haiti as well as out at sea, as they desperately seek safety anywhere outside of their native home.
The reality is that Haitians and humanitarian organizations continue to come under attack, and these attacks are getting worse. We need the creation of a humanitarian corridor that is predictable as well as reliable which would allow for the safe passage of healthcare staff and patients and the necessary resources for a viable healthcare system. We are also asking that reliable communication systems be facilitated, perhaps one that is based on satellite communication.
It is difficult to think about what we can do, particularly from a distance, but we can start by spreading the word about the inhumane conditions our neighbors in Haiti are suffering in. Among us, there are many leaders who are in the position to address these challenges and alleviate the immense suffering and incredible danger people are facing in Haiti.
We are asking for your help in sharing this communication with as many people as possible in your network – family, friends, neighbors, religious leaders, political leaders, and your local media.
Please help be the voice for the voiceless.
Jeremiah J. Lowney, Jr., DDS, MS, MPH
President and Founder
Haitian Health Foundation
January 12, 2023