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Haiti's Unrest: A Battle Against Rising Gang Violence and Political Turmoil

The Caribbean island of Haiti is currently grappling with a surge in gang violence and political instability. The capital city, Port-au-Prince, has been trapped in a web of escalating violence since February 29, 2024. This turbulence has driven more than 33,000 residents to flee, according to the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration (IOM) report on March 22, 2024. The violence has also resulted in numerous fatalities, left around 17,000 homeless, and facilitated the escape of over 4,000 inmates from Haiti’s two main prisons.

The National Police of Haiti, outmanned and overwhelmed, have been unable to counter the gangs' potent firepower. The violence has reached such a peak that police officers in Port-au-Prince have been unable to receive their salaries for nearly a month. Meanwhile, cities like Les Cayes, Jérémie, and Léogâne in the southern region of Haiti have become a sanctuary for those fleeing the violence, adding to the existing 116,000 displaced individuals who had previously escaped gang violence.

In the political sphere, Prime Minister Ariel Henry has expressed his intention to resign once a transitional presidential council is formed. However, his return to Haiti is currently hindered by airport closures due to the ongoing gang violence. This political instability follows the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, which plunged the nation into a state of flux. The current wave of violence has been particularly destructive, with heavily armed gangs targeting police, state institutions, and even prisons.

Despite the grim circumstances, there are signs of potential relief. A multinational force, led by Kenya, is expected to assist in curbing the gang problem. Furthermore, the establishment of a US-backed transitional council of seven members is reportedly nearing fruition.

Yet, the situation remains dire for many Haitians, as exemplified by the plight of Sarah Molin, a 20-year-old former computer science student. Forced to abandon their home due to the violence, Sarah and her family now live in an abandoned cinema with around 100 other families, devoid of basic amenities like sewerage or running water. Their daily struggle for food underscores the harsh reality for many of Haiti's internally displaced people.

Adding to the crisis, the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH) in Port-au-Prince, one of the few functioning institutions, was recently attacked by a criminal group, leading to at least three deaths. Police are striving to regain control of areas under the control of notorious gang leader Jimmy Chérizier, known as "Barbecue," escalating the violence further.

The international community is closely monitoring the situation, with the United States evacuating embassy staff from Port-au-Prince and planning a rescue flight for remaining US citizens. Other countries like Germany have followed suit, evacuating their embassy staff due to the ongoing violence.

The crisis in Haiti underscores the vulnerability of political institutions and the destructive power of gang violence. As Haiti attempts to reclaim stability, the resilience of its people is being severely tested. The coming weeks and months will be pivotal in shaping the future of this embattled Caribbean nation.