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Roman Catholic schools offer shelter amid rising gang violence in Haiti

05 July 2024

Alamy

Cleanup personnel remove debris in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, on Wednesday, after several cars were destroyed by gangs

Cleanup personnel remove debris in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, on Wednesday, after several cars were destroyed by gangs

ABOUT 600,000 Haitians have fled their homes this year as a result of rising gang violence, new figures released by the United Nations show.

The number of internally displaced people has grown by two-thirds since March, when the country entered a state of emergency, as gangs laid siege to the capital and overthrew the government; 180,000 of those displaced are children.

Clergy and Christian communities have also been forced to flee. One nun, Sister Thérèse-Marie, told the Roman Catholic news website Crux that a neighbouring community was attacked and the nuns had to hide, before fleeing elsewhere to a safe house.

Jean-Claude Joseph, an RC activist, described people arriving in large groups from the capital, Port-au-Prince. Four-fifths of the capital is estimated to be in the control of armed gangs. More than 2500 people are estimated to have been killed, and 900 schools have been closed.

Mr Joseph, who lives outside the capital in the area of Grand’Anse, said: “They bring their bed, mattresses, and many other accessories by bus in order to live here. We see it every day. You look at people’s faces and see the marks of poverty and famine. Criminals stop trucks that are carrying basic items, and make them pay a tariff. The prices only increase.”

Some RC schools are sheltering children who had to flee their homes. Fr Firto Régis, who works at a school, told Crux that congregations were unable to help, as “those in the affected areas are not safe either — and they don’t have the means to help.”

The first UN-backed group of police from Kenya has arrived in Haiti to help to control the violence. About 200 officers landed in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday of last week, but about ten times that number are expected to be sent from other countries, mostly in Africa and the Caribbean, on a mission that is backed but not managed by the UN.

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