The living hell of Port-au-Prince

18 Jul 2023

Day after day, the inhabitants of Haiti’s capital risk being kidnapped, injured or even killed in street clashes between gangs, civilian self-defence brigades and the police.

Two years after the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse, the city of Port-au-Prince continues its descent into violence. 

The everyday violence in Haiti’s capital is recounted in the testimonies of 15 people living in Port-au-Prince – mostly employees from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – gathered in three episodes for the documentary series, “Haiti, caught in the crossfire”. 

Episode 1: State of violence

In April, the Haitian capital and its inhabitants experienced a new wave of extreme violence that resulted in the death of more than 600 people. On 24 April alone, MSF teams treated around 50 people with gunshot and knife wounds.

Many victims were unable to reach a healthcare facility – it was too dangerous for them to leave their homes. Earlier in the year, in February, and once again in April, we were forced to suspend activities in our hospital in Cité Soleil because of fighting in the neighbouring street. In two years, the hospital has been hit by 65 stray bullets.

Around 90 armed groups are waging war in the streets of Port-au-Prince and now control more than 80 per cent of the city. According to the Haitian human rights research group CARDH, 389 kidnappings were recorded in the first quarter of 2023, an increase of over 173 per cent compared to 2021 and 72 per cent compared to 2022.

Episode 2: Nowhere to go

MSF's epidemiology and research centre, Epicentre, conducted an internal survey of MSF employees and their families. The results showed a remarkably high level of exposure to violence. Fourteen per cent of the households surveyed said that at least one member has been witness to an episode of extreme violence over the past 12 months, such as lynching or murder.

Five per cent said that at least one member of their family has suffered physical violence, including robbery or kidnapping, and 30 per cent said they had suffered material damage as a result of the violence. Ninety per cent of respondents felt that the security situation in 2023 was much worse than in 2022.

Episode 3: Lost generation

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