What if Haiti was the most at-risk and dangerous country in the world?

A disaster in Haiti, one of the poorest Caribbean nations in the world, where three million children need humanitarian assistance as the continued violence of rebel gangs also hinders the delivery of aid sent by Unicef. This was stated by the head of the United Nations children's agency Catherine Russell, who defined the situation as “catastrophic and continually worsening day by day”. The UN itself has recalled non-essential personnel from the country and during a Security Council meeting it was reported that essential services are non-existent in many areas, while the Transitional Presidential Council has not yet been sworn in.

In complete anarchy, armed groups have intensified their attacks since the end of February, that is, since Prime Minister Ariel Henry traveled to Kenya to sign an agreement for the deployment of a multinational security force in the nation. Once it was known that around a thousand armed men would disembark to maintain order, the local gangs banded together and attacked the capital Port-au-Prince. Henry was therefore unable to return as the gangs had also occupied the international airport, forcing its closure. After a long negotiation, the president had said he was willing to step aside and effectively remain in exile, but only after the creation of a transitional presidential council that would allow the government of the country. But the formation of this body has been plagued by delays and internal disagreements and to date the nine members who would be part of it still have to be sworn in before they can take up their roles. The powerful leaders of the gangs, including the former anti-US policeman Jimmy Chérizier and Guy Philippe, the latter a former police commander and one of the organizers of a failed coup in 2004, want to obtain amnesty for them and for the militants by promising the cessation of the violence and the withdrawal from some of the occupied institutional structures.

In recent days, clashes between police and gang members have also been reported near the National Palace, the building where the transitional council is due to be sworn in. And even if the armed gangs claim that their main objective was only the ouster of President Henry, they never stopped carrying out attacks against the police forces, looting universities and libraries, setting fire to shops and looting pharmacies, attacking prisons freeing thousands of prisoners, even imposing the closure of the largest hospital in the capital Port-au-Prince, of which they control over 90% of the territory, terrorizing and subjugating, according to Unicef, over 2.7 million people. The stronghold of anarchy appears to be the city neighborhood of Lower Delmas, which cannot be entered without the protection of the fighters. Russell, in her speech to the UN Security Council meeting in New York last Monday, declared: “Every day hundreds of children are injured or killed; some even recruited to join armed groups out of sheer desperation; Recent data indicates that 30% to 50% of Haitian armed groups currently have children among their ranks.” The problem of getting UN aid is also aggravated by the fact that since 22 April the Varreux cargo port terminal, through which most of the fuel destined for the capital passes, has also been closed, access to which is now prevented by men armed men who have confiscated heavy vehicles with which they are blocking the road arteries. As a result, fuel is in short supply across the nation. Haiti's political and economic crisis has been ongoing for years: since last March the country's main criminal gangs have allied themselves and eliminated the existing government led by President Ariel Henry elected in July 2021 after the assassination of his predecessor Javenel Moïse, an episode that has never been completely clarified. Henry's greatest fault would have been that of not having called the elections which should have taken place within the first ten days of February 2024. The revolt that threw the country into chaos was therefore triggered so as not to give the opportunity to implement the pacification organized by the UN.

The recommendation of the Farnesina

On April 4, the Farnesina published a security notice on the Viaggiare Sicuri portal: Travel to Haiti is absolutely not recommended for any reason. Citizens present are invited to stay at home, avoiding any movement, particularly in the metropolitan area of ​​Port-au-Prince. For months now, there have been daily clashes and disturbances in the streets, particularly violent in Port-au-Prince and Les Cayes (…). Most national roads are blocked by barricades of protesters or so-called irregular gangs. Petrol pumps are impassable or closed. There are also difficulties in withdrawing cash, in telecommunications, cellular networks and the Internet, as well as difficulties in opening and serving the public in public offices and hospitals. Problems with water supply and cases of cholera have also been reported. The Government of Haiti has extended the state of emergency until May 3, 2024 and has imposed a curfew – in force from 7pm to 6am – until further notice, in the capital Port-Au-Prince and throughout the west of the country , after the attacks on some penitentiaries by gangs, which allowed the escape of almost 4 thousand inmates, and the heavy clashes with the police throughout the city and at the airport. The situation must be considered seriously unstable, also in light of the constant reports of threats of kidnappings, gang violence and civil unrest throughout the country (…). Any movement, even within the country, may involve a health or safety risk.

A tormented paradise

Haiti is a small Caribbean country located in the western part of the island of Hispaniola, where it borders the Republic of Santo Domingo to the east. Discovered by Westerners with the landing of Christopher Columbus on 4 December 1492, it was then Spanish and then French from 1697 until 1804, when it obtained independence. Its political history has always been marked by instability and revolutions and, in 2010, also marred by the earthquake and the Cholera epidemic. The United States, renting a fleet of civil helicopters, evacuated around 160 compatriots to Miami and Santo Domingo, before the Dominicans closed the border to protect the territory and their economy which thrives on tourism.