For Haiti, 2022 began much as the previous year ended: widespread lockdown violence and political instability.
And in the past 12 months, the situation has largely not improved: Haitians have faced a spate of gang attacks and kidnappings, fuel and electricity shortages, a increasing political deadlock and a deadly outbreak of cholera.
“We don’t know what will happen tomorrow,” said Judes Jonathas, senior program manager at the humanitarian group Mercy Corps. Jonathas spoke to Al Jazeera in October, when gang violence gripped the streets of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, where he lives.
“It’s like we are live minute by minute. We are going out, [and] we don’t know if we’ll be back,” he said.
As the country continues to reel from several overlapping crises, Al Jazeera takes a look at how the past year has played out in Haiti — and what 2023 may have in store.
Increased gang violence
Gang violence is not a new problem in the Caribbean nation, but it is on the rise, especially after the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise months of political instability and created a power vacuum.
The de facto leader of Haiti, Prime Minister Ariel Henrywho elected Moise to the post just days before he was killed has faced a crisis of legitimacy, with some Haitian civil society organizations urging him to hand over power to an inclusive, transitional government – a demand he rejected.
Armed gang leaders do too pressure tactics used — including fuel terminal blockades — in an attempt to force Henry to resign.
After months of escalating violence, one of the most powerful armed groups – the G9 gang alliance, led by former police officer Jimmy “BBQ” Cherizier – in September imposed a new fuel block at the main petrol terminal in Port-au-Prince, known as the Varreux Terminal.
The move came after Henry’s government announced plans to scrap petrol subsidies public protests among Haitians already struggling with rising living costs.
The weeks-long blockade led to water and electricity shortages throughout Port-au-Prince, including in hospitals trying to treat cholera patients. Each crisis exacerbated the others, said a United Nations official Haiti stared dropping a “cholera time bomb” as the instability and violence cut off entire neighborhoods.
Haitian authorities regained control of the Varreux terminal in November, allowing gas stations to reopen and street parties to take place – a rare bright spot amid simmering concerns about the power wielded by armed groups in the country.
When gang violence reached a crisis in Port-au-Prince in October, Henry – the Haitian Prime Minister – issued a call for an international force to be sent to Haiti to restore order and a humanitarian corridor to enable fuel and water deliveries in the capital.
The question enjoyed the support from the United Nationsas well as the United States, but sparked new protests, with many Haitians, including civil society leaders, reject the prospect of foreign intervention.
Washington-led efforts to mount “a non-UN partner-country-led mission” to Haiti have since stalled, as President Joe Biden’s administration has so far failed to get another country to do so. to get it to agree to command such a force, US media reported. .
Instead, the US and its allies, Canada in particular, have imposed a series of sanctions against Haitian politicians and others for their alleged support of gangs and other destabilizing activities, such as drug trafficking and government corruption.
“Put sanctions on high-profile individuals involved in corruption who support and facilitate gang violence in Haiti [and] Take drastic action to stop the illegal arms trade from the US to Haiti,” Velina Elysee Charlier, an activist with the anti-corruption group Nou Pap Domi, told the US House Foreign Affairs Committee at a hearing in late September.
Cholera vaccination campaign
Meanwhile, Haitian health officials continue to struggle with the outbreak of cholera.
Caused by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the cholera bacteria, the disease can cause severe diarrhea, as well as vomiting, thirst and other symptoms, and can spread quickly in areas without adequate sewage treatment or clean drinking water.
The first infections in Haiti in more than three years were reported in early October, after a previous outbreak subsided in 2019. Since then, more than 17,600 suspected cases have been discovered, according to the latest figures from the country’s public health department (pdf).
A cholera vaccination campaign began December 19 in some of the hardest-hit areas after Haiti received its first shipment of more than 1.1 million vaccine doses.
“The arrival of oral vaccines in Haiti is a step in the right direction,” said Laure Adrien, director general of Haiti’s Ministry of Health and Population. said on Dec. 12, adding that an additional 500,000 vaccines are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
In the past year, more and more Haitians have left the country, seeking asylum and opportunities elsewhere in Latin America and the United States.
Thousands have made long journeys on foot, including across a dangerous jungle passage between Colombia and Panama known as the Darien Gap, after finding employment opportunities and visa opportunities scarce in countries such as Chile and Brazil. Others have taken boats in hopes of the coast of Florida.
Haitians are among the many migrants and refugees rejected by US authorities at the country’s southern border with Mexico in the past year. But in early December, the Biden administration announced that it extends Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for an additional 18 months for Haitian nationals already residing in the US.
The government cited conditions in Haiti, “including socioeconomic challenges, political instability, and gang violence and crime,” as reasons for extending TPS, which protects Haitians from deportation and gives them U.S. work permits.
But thousands of Haitian migrants were repatriated last year from Haiti’s neighboring country, the Dominican Republic, the only other country on the island of Hispaniola. Top UN officials in November called on Dominican authorities to halt the removals, but they continued.
Moise kill investigation
More than a year after a gang of armed mercenaries stormed Moise’s Port-au-Prince home and assassinated the Haitian presidentthe country’s investigation into what happened seems to have stalled.
Dozens of people, including several Colombian nationals, have been arrested as part of the ongoing investigation into what led to the July 7, 2021 murder. But the process is slow. Many questions – and theories – remain about why Moise was killed.
The US Justice Department has said a group of about 20 Colombians, as well as some Haitian Americans, participated in the plan. While the plan initially focused on kidnapping Moise in an alleged arrest operation, Justice Department officials said it “ultimately resulted in a plot to assassinate the president.”
The US has sued three men for their alleged role in the murder.
Calls for support
Now, as 2023 begins, international organizations asked for more support to help Haiti respond to the crises it faces.
“Things are now at a breaking point. This crisis will not pass – renewed and robust humanitarian aid is needed,” said Jean-Martin Bauer, Haiti Director of the UN World Food Programme, said on 19 Dec.
Bauer said more than that half of the Haitian population – about 4.7 million people – are facing a food crisis. That includes 19,000 residents of the violence-ravaged Cite Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, who are suffering from a “catastrophic” level of food insecurity.
“What Haiti is going through now is not just a period of instability that will diminish as part of a regular cycle the world is accustomed to. Haiti is experiencing a crisis of an unprecedented magnitude that can only get worse – unless we act quickly and with greater urgency from all of us,” he said.