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Haitian International Support Wanes as Allies Attempt to Find Solutions

Updated: Jun 29

On April 30, Haiti’s newly installed transitional council chose Former Sports Minister Fritz Bélizaire as Prime Minister, succeeding Interim Prime Minister, Economy and Finance Minister, Michel Patrick Boisvert. Boisvert has held the position since April 25, taking the position upon the resignation of former Acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry after a tenuous three years in office.


Gang violence has plagued the country for nearly four months, with the gangs continuing to hold Haiti’s largest airport, Toussaint Louverture International Airport, and controlling 80% of the capital city, Port-au-Prince.


Through coordinated attacks beginning on Feb. 29, the gangs sieged the island’s two highest capacity prisons, resulting in the release of 4,000 inmates and razed the country’s police stations and hospitals. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 5.5 million Haitians need humanitarian aid, 4.4 million Haitians (2 out of 5) face acute food insecurity, and over 300,000 Haitians (half being children) were displaced. The armed gangs continue to perpetuate violence and have extended their influence to the remote rural corners of the nation. Governmental presence has also been subjected to internal erosion from political corruption that has plagued the island nation for decades.


Infrastructure of essential services, such as medical care from doctors and hospitals, are at risk, having become targets of the armed gangs. Several hundred teachers were also displaced, resulting from this practice. As of 2023, about 1 million children could not attend school for the fourth consecutive year. In a study conducted by OCHA over the past year, rape cases increased by 49% from January to August. The United States and neighboring countries continue to repatriate Haitian migrants fleeing from dire humanitarian situations. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed that on April 18th, one of its agencies, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), “conducted a repatriation flight of around 50 Haitian nationals to Haiti.”


The DHS stated it “will continue to enforce U.S. laws and policy throughout the Florida Straits and the Caribbean region, as well as at the southwest border. U.S. policy is to return noncitizens who do not establish a legal basis to remain in the United States.”


Haiti historically was affected by internal displacement primarily from natural hazards. Due to recent events, the primary cause shifted to insecurity, though these two stressors on Haitians often go hand-in-hand. As insecurity increased and rainfall decreased within the island nation, the agricultural season has become disrupted, leading 44% of the population to grapple with acute food insecurity. The Haitian government has a limited capacity to address many environmental concerns and lacks the infrastructure and influence to implement the necessary structures.


Haitians have had to adapt to a new normal, which includes constant gang presence and food insecurity, leaving many to resort to harmful environmental practices to survive. Practices like slash-and-burn farming or cutting down and burning local forests to create farmable fields. These methods significantly contribute to deforestation, soil degradation, and biodiversity loss, adding to Haiti’s already abysmal deforestation history, leaving it with less than 1% of its original forestation across the island. As farmable land has become a commodity, many Haitians have migrated to urban areas, leading to significant overcrowding in city slums and causing poor sanitary conditions.


Young Haitians, relying on subsistence farming, were pushed to cities for economic opportunity and found fewer opportunities. With limited access to education and resources, many of these young Haitians are susceptible to recruitment by armed groups and sex work. According to The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), young women and girls are at extreme risk of sexual and gender-based violence, with kidnappings and torture perpetrated by armed groups daily.


Security challenges and violence are exacerbating climate insecurities within the nation; however, the opposite is also true. Haiti’s climate insecurities are exacerbating security challenges and issues with perpetual violence. Haiti’s eroded governmental structures and rampant gang violence have implemented effective climate change policies and programs nearly impossible at both the national and local levels.


The government lacks the capacity and resources to establish proper disaster risk management. Furthermore, road blockages, NGOs and U.N. agencies tasked with providing aid to remote and marginalized regions are subject to looting by gangs, adding to the already stressed aid distribution process. As a result, many climate NGOs are weary of providing further financial support to the country. Haiti has made efforts in the past to address its climate insecurity through legislation; however, implementation remains challenging due to constraints on budget and resources.


The Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), a series of proposals and acts intended for governments to communicate and work together in addressing climate change, passed in 2015, its largest commitment to assuage its climate insecurity issue. The compilation hoped to structure a process to address damages resulting from extreme weather events, improve its resilience in response, and decrease its contribution to rising global temperatures. However, the rise of political and social instability over recent decades and a lack of funding has made environmental management difficult. The NDC stated that not all priority actions listed within its 2021 National Adaptation Action Plan aimed at bolstering specific socioeconomic communities’ resilience to climate insecurity while reducing GHG emissions. The reasoning is not the result of insufficient funding but rather “the limited technical capacities of the relevant government institutions,” according to U.N. and NGOs. Environmental conservation is seldom a priority for everyday Haitians when faced with survival, and the Haitian government must prioritize a national security threat. Responses that underscore the definite link between national security and the environment remain unarticulated. Moreover, program enforcement is difficult due to these competing priorities, challenging law enforcement, restoration, and conservation.