By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
Haiti is located on the western side of Hispaniola, an island shared with the Dominican Republic to the east. In the 1800s, Haiti was once one of the richest countries in the Caribbean through profits gained through the sugar and forestry industries.
Unfortunately, since that time, Haiti has been plagued with numerous internal problems, including natural disasters, poverty, political corruption and gang violence. Many Haitians live in desperate conditions throughout much of the country and must deal with problems such as a lack of clean drinking water, proper sanitation, or adequate government social services.
Natural Disasters in Haiti
In 2010, Haiti was hit with a monster 7.3 earthquake where more than 200,000 Haitian people died. The earthquake was responsible for over one million people being displaced from their damaged homes.
People had to live in shacks and under tarps without proper sanitation and water, which led to a cholera outbreak. Over 819,000 people in Haiti have been infected with cholera and around 10,000 have lost their lives.
Haiti was impacted by two more natural disasters in 2021. One was included another earthquake on August 14, which was then followed by a direct hit from Tropical Depression Grace. These disasters resulted in hundreds of landslides and other problems that limited rescue responses to the earthquake.
Political Instability in Haiti
Haiti is internationally known for its political instability, which has been blamed for much of the nation’s poverty. Haiti has a population of over 10.5 million people with 59% living in poverty and another 24% living in extreme poverty.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, corruption exists in all sectors of the governance in Haiti. The government has not been able to successfully mitigate crime within the country.
Gangs Are Now Dominant within Haiti Due to the Recent Assassination of Haiti’s President
On July 7, 2021, Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, was murdered in his private residence in the capital of Port-au-Prince. The assailants are believed to be hired mercenaries from Colombia, who presented themselves as DEA agents before shooting Moïse 12 times.
Since that time, a power vacuum has existed within the country, causing it to spin out of control with widespread crime and gang violence. Around 90 gangs exist in Haiti. In many ways, they appear to be more powerful than the local police services, because the gangs have tens of thousands of gang members.
One of those gangs is the 400 Mawozo. This violent gang is known for kidnappings and taking control of roadways and communities around the capital of Port-au-Prince.
On October 16, 2021, 17 missionaries and five children, including an 8-month-old, were kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang. The gang is demanding $1 million per hostage and has threatened to kill the hostages if their demands are not met. To date, two of the 17 hostages have been released.
Gangs are also responsible for blocking fuel distribution centers in the country, which is further putting the country into disarray. Due to the fuel shortage, hospitals are being forced to turn away patients and schools are shutting down. In addition, people are not able to get to work.
International Support Will Be Needed to Relieve Haiti
The situation in Haiti continues to become more unstable. As the current Haitian government appears to be unable to provide adequate support to meet the needs of its citizens, international aid will be needed to curtail Haiti’s internal problems.