Haitians are rushing to stay alive, looking for food, water, and security while gang violence suffocates the capital.


,- A big man rallies a throng gathered around him as dusk falls by using a megaphone. Beside him, a little cardboard box with contributions of just 10 Haitian gourdes, or roughly 7 U.S. cents, is waiting.
With an obvious sense of urgency, he grips the hands of people walking into a violently gang-targeted Port-au-Prince neighborhood and says, "Give what you can!"

In a modest attempt to protect locals from the ongoing violence that has taken over 2,500 lives in Haiti from January to March alone, the community just agreed to invest in a metal barricade.

"News of another tragedy is brought every morning," bemoans immigration officer Noune-Carme Manoune.

A dangerous dance, life in Port-au-Prince has driven Haitians to the breaking point as they try to make their way through the mayhem consuming their city. Residents take extreme steps to survive when gangs dominate law enforcement and the government is mainly nonexistent. While some people race through gang-infested neighborhoods in an attempt to avoid danger, others strengthen their homes with metal fences. Those with money store necessities as a city shut off from outside aid by the closure of its primary airport and the immobility of its biggest ports suffers from a shortage of commodities.

Chief of the International Organization for Migration in Haiti Philippe Branchat said, "Port-au-Prince is a city under siege."

Every day there are gunshot, kidnapping, and death alerts, and supermarkets are staffed by armed security that resembles little police stations.

Gang violence used to be limited, but these days it affects every area of the city, making nothing safe. There is hardly much safety even inside the house; stray gunshots take lives and the threat of death hovers over daily activities. Schools and gas stations close, and the illegal market for gasoline rises to three times the official price. Cash withdrawals are limited and checks are held up indefinitely due to banking limitations. Week-long pay waits for civil servants only serve to heighten the general fear of the public.

"People are tense," musician Isidore Gédéon notes. Nobody believes anyone these days. Control has been lost by the state."

Haiti's problems climax on February 29 when gangs started well-planned attacks on important infrastructure, causing mayhem throughout the capital. Many Haitians are still dubious of a quick solution because Prime Minister Ariel Henry is abroad and a transitional committee tasked with bringing stability is being formed.

"It's no longer just the gangs," Gedeon muses. Fear is engulfing societies. Every day innocent lives are lost.

An exodus results amid the chaos, with more than 95,000 people leaving Port-au-Prince in a month to escape gang violence that destroys entire districts. But traveling through gang-controlled areas has its own dangers; visitors run the danger of being attacked or killed by armed attackers.

After widespread uprooting, homelessness skyrockets, leaving 160,000 Haitians without a place to live. Families, split up by necessity, live hazardous lives and look for safety wherever they can.

"This is hell," bemoans filmmaker Nelson Langlois, who describes evenings spent crowded on his roof while violence erupted below.

Adversity has shown Haitians to be remarkably resilient. Communities unite to survive the storm with everything from improvised barriers to group attempts at self-defense. But questions remain since there have been tales of criminals destroying metal fences with impunity, which has left locals suspicious and demoralized.

Hope lingers in this whirlwind of uncertainty because of the unwavering will of a people who are determined to endure against all obstacles.

(newsline paper)

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