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Deep poverty, increasing food scarcity and extreme gang violence continue to grip Haiti


April 15, 2024 • 3 min read

Even as the crisis of violence, politics and hunger continues to engulf Haiti amid an extremely fragile security situation, the majority of GOAL Haiti programmes aimed at improving food security, improving sanitation and hygiene and preventing violence against young girls and women, have restarted.

(Issue: Monday 15th April) Staff safety remains paramount, especially on foot of reports from other INGOs that their staff have not escaped the violence. For example, in Artibonite, in central Haiti, an NGO employee was held captive for five days before being released unharmed, and two other NGO workers were assaulted by a resident who was reportedly frustrated with their activities. To ensure staff safety, GOAL Haiti’s security and access team assesses the security situation every day by determining early each morning whether certain areas are accessible and safe for staff to carry out their duties. 

Haiti has experienced a long-simmering crisis, over the country’s challenge in governing itself, especially after the series of natural disasters and the increasingly dire humanitarian situation. Then there was a severe escalation and rampant violence at the beginning of March 2024. At the time and up to the end of March, the GOAL Haiti Team, which numbers 78 and is led by Country Director Matt Knight, took the difficult decision to suspend all its programs and instigated strict curfews for its staff. This was the first time that GOAL had to take such a decision since it started operating in Haiti in 2010, after the catastrophic earthquake, and has continued to operate there in such a complex and fragile environment.  

Speaking about the dire security situation, Matt Knight, Country Director, GOAL Haiti, who has temporarily relocated to the Dominican Republic, said,

“Before I left Port-au-Prince last week, I saw that stocks on shelves in all supermarkets were incredibly low and there were significant issues in buying key items like meat and rice, with supply chains via the main port and airport cut off. And when I was at the airport in Cap-Haitian, I was with large numbers of people desperate to get out on flights to the US. I spoke to one family who was sending their two-year-old to Miami with a family member he had never met just so that he would be safe from the violence, as they were scared it would spread and as food shortages become the norm.” 

Also speaking about GOAL’s current operations in Haiti, Matt Knight, said,

“The GOAL Haiti team is continuing to show determination in the face of massive personal challenges and continuing to deliver aid to the hardest hit communities. In just over two days, at the end of March, we managed to distribute food vouchers to 1,250 people in Carrefour, a most disadvantaged and “difficult to reach” neighborhood in Port-au-Prince. And we recently managed to procure emergency fuel stocks for our fleet to allow us to continue working. However, we now need to be mindful that as legitimate fuel stocks dwindle, private stocks may become a target for the gangs.”  

“Essentially we are intent on continuing to provide our critical aid, support and protection services in the seven locations where we traditionally operate across Haiti including Carrefour, Petion-Ville, Tabarre, Thomazeau, Ganthier, Cornillon and Fonds Verettes, with support from Irish Aid, USAID and UNICEF” continued Matt Knight.  

Haiti has a population of 11.7M people and today, OCHA (UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) estimates that 5.5M people in Haiti are in need of humanitarian assistance. Currently, over 350,000 people are estimated to be internally displaced in Haiti due to the relentless gang violence, which has more recently extended from the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince to remote rural areas.