During the month of March, 195 people were killed in Haiti and over 400 people were kidnapped including 10 women, six girls, four boys, and a newborn, reports The Haitian Times. The number of deaths has tripled since 55 killings were recorded in February 2023.
The killings took place in Haiti’s West Department, which has been ravaged by violent gang activity in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Other cities such as Pétion-Ville, Cité Soleil, Bel Air, Martissant, and Canaan have also been overrun by gang activity. Due to the rise in violence in the country, over 160,000 residents have fled their homes in search of safety.
Camille Occius, general coordinator of the Organization Citizens for a New Haiti (OCNH), described the gruesome death tolls as one of the most violent times in the country's history.
“We call it [a] catastrophic month,” Occius said. “We find that no one is spared from bandits in any sector.”
The Center for Analysis of Research in Human Rights (CARDH) reported that almost 400 people have been kidnapped in 2023 producing severe instability throughout the region.
“This police force is under-equipped and incapable of securing the citizens and the city,” the organization’s report stated. “Faced with the inability of the police to protect the population prey to the cruelty of the gangs, international cooperation should get out of its posture of promises, meetings to assume its responsibility to protect.”
The kidnappings by gangs have even impacted American citizens. Last month, Abigail and Jean-Dickens Toussaint of Tamarac, Florida, were kidnapped on a bus when they arrived in Haiti. They were planning to visit ailing relatives and attend a festival.
Food insecurity is another result of the escalating violence in Haiti. The World Food Programme reported that approximately 4.9 million people are now on the brink of starvation in the country. Jean-Martin Bauer, WFP Haiti Director said that Port-au-Prince’s poorest neighborhoods have families living under the constant threat of armed groups who control access to food, water and sanitation.
Because of the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis in the country, Haiti’s government has been heavily criticized for its response on behalf of its citizens.
“We recommend equipping the National Police of Haiti with sophisticated equipment and the establishment of a very dynamic intelligence system on violence,” Occius said. “We want a humanitarian response from the state in favor of the people.”
According to the United Nations, 531 people were killed, 300 were injured, and 277 have been abducted since January 2023.