Haiti – October 28 2022

Haiti: Children out of school, lack food and support

Brutal gang violence, lack of fuel, extremely high food prices and a cholera outbreak: a series of crises has shaken Haiti, and children and families in the Caribbean country are in dire need.  

Haiti has been in an acute political crisis since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. A severe earthquake a month later worsened the situation, making it increasingly unstable. Now it has become even worse, as criminal gangs have taken over Haiti.  

Gangs rule 

“Every time we leave the house, we pray that we will not be kidnapped,” says Faimy Loiseau, National Director of SOS Children's Villages Haiti. 

“The population is just hoping that life comes back, because we're not living. We are not living,” she adds. 

The gangs, she says, are extremely brutal towards the population. There is kidnapping, extortion, they control all the fuel trade, spread fear and suffering, and have plunged Haiti into chaos. 

Rapes and murders are part of everyday life, schools are closed until further notice, hospitals have severely limited capacity, and banks are only open a few days a week. Angry mobs protesting the rise in fuel prices and demanding the resignation of the prime minister have destroyed people's property and shops, and blocked off many areas. Many people have not been able to leave their homes for weeks.

Even for the children who are safe, the term "safe" must be used with caution because the gangs are everywhere, says Ms. Loiseau.

Schools were originally supposed to have opened on 3 September, but due to the chaotic situation in the country, the government sent out a message that this was postponed. The schools are still closed, says Ms. Loiseau. 

Some schools are able to teach online, but most do not have internet access or the proper materials to do so. Also, due to the violence, it is simply too dangerous to have children out in public going to school. “In Haiti, due to the insecurity, you have to be very cautious in everything you do. You have to keep a low profile in order to avoid becoming a victim,” Ms. Loiseau says.

People are starving 

Haiti produces little food itself and is dependent on imports. Due to a lack of fuel, transport has come to a complete halt, which has led to a shortage of goods and has dramatically increased prices. Now even more people are starving. 

As if the situation were not dire enough, there is now a cholera outbreak. Garbage piles up in the streets and access to clean water can be difficult. There are fears that cholera will spread quickly. Of the nearly 2,000 suspected cases of cholera, half are children. 

Concern for children in programmes 

SOS Children's Villages has been active in Haiti for several decades and is preparing further aid measures, especially to address the food crisis. 

The children and families living in the SOS Children's Villages in Haiti are safe. 

However, out in the community, the families with children who receive support from SOS Children’s Villages are struggling. “They are in a very precarious situation because we cannot reach them,” says Ms. Loiseau. 

Many of the community centers and kindergartens that were access points to provide food and social services are closed. SOS Children’s Villages is working to map the needs and hopes that in the near future it will have the opportunity to help, but the economic situation contributes to the uncertainty. “Everything has become extremely expensive,” the national director says. 

Major psychological consequences for children 

"When children see family members die in front of their eyes or no one can tell them why they are no longer allowed to go to school, or whether they get food, this has major consequences," says Ms. Loiseau. 

“The one thing that everyone wants is to get back our life. We want to live well. We want to be finished with the gangs. We would like to have a good government. So basically, that's what people are hoping,” she concludes.