In Port-au-Prince, there are an estimated 95 armed gangs that control large territories (around 1/3 of the capital city). These gangs are increasingly engaged in armed battles for territory control, affecting the lives of around 1.5M people (OCHA, June 2021). Since Sept 2020 in Haiti, thousands of families have been forced to flee their homes due to armed violence. The number of children and women victims of armed attacks by criminal gangs increased 62% compared to the previous period (45 to 73). Kidnapping is also abruptly increasing, including children and women: 233 total cases from Jan to Apr 2021 vs 234 in all 2020 (+300%). The impact and role of children in the gangs activities is difficult to assess with precise data, but it is now certain that the widespread and ‘normalization’ of violence, lack of employment opportunities, and lack of access to basic social services, are leading children and youth to join the armed groups.
Since June 1st, the gangs’ activities and clashes have accelerated in the metropolitan area of Port au Prince and an increasing number of families are affected by constant clashes between armed groups, reaching an estimated 17,400 people forced to leave their homes to survive (internally displaced people, IDPs) since the beginning of the crises in September 2020. Far from home and without shelter, displaced children live in fear, anxiety and trauma. They lose access to education, health, nutrition and recreation services, become more vulnerable and are more exposed to violence and sexual abuse. Three main sites are currently particularly affected: Martissant / Fontamara (estimated 6,600 IDPs), Bel-Air / Tabarre-Issa (estimated 3,800 IDPs) and Bas-Delmas (estimated 7,000 IDPs); including the IDPs who found refuge in shelters and the ones hosted with relatives or acquaintances. Among those IDPs, around 1,500 people from Martissant / Fontamara (including around 600 children), are currently being sheltered in Carrefour Sports Center, with the support of UNICEF. A serious concern exists for potential COVID-19 outbreaks among IDPs, especially in the shelters.
As majority of these affected areas are controlled by gangs currently fighting against each other, security and humanitarian access conditions are extremely challenging, making more difficult any humanitarian response activity. Access by road to Martissant/Fontamara and Carrefour from the capital city is presently restricted, further hampering the response.
The current situation of gangs’ violence and IDPs in the capital city’s metropolitan area is feared to go towards a further deterioration as, with the planned elections later in the year and the limited presence and capacity of government institutions, the armed gangs activities and violent clashes are expected to cause increasing forced displacements of population. UNICEF is getting ready to scale-up its humanitarian response.