Mass Exodus from Port-au-Prince: Over 53,000 Flee Amid Unrelenting Gang Violence

Street vendors withdraw from the area where they were selling their bread, near the National Palace, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

In a desperate bid to escape relentless gang violence, more than 53,000 people have fled Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince in less than three weeks, reveals a United Nations report released on Tuesday. The vast majority of these displaced individuals are seeking refuge from the turmoil gripping the city.

Disturbingly, over 60% of the displaced are heading towards Haiti’s rural southern region, raising concerns among U.N. officials regarding the strain on existing infrastructure and resources in host communities.

Stephane Dujarric, a U.N. spokesman, highlighted the humanitarian crisis unfolding, emphasizing the insufficient capacity of the southern regions to accommodate the influx of fleeing residents.

The exodus commenced following a series of attacks by powerful gangs targeting government institutions in late February. These violent incidents included the burning of police stations, assaults on the main international airport, and mass prison breaks, exacerbating the already dire security situation.

According to the U.N. report, the toll of the violence is staggering, with over 1,500 reported deaths and 17,000 left homeless as of March 22.

Among the fleeing populace is Marjorie Michelle-Jean, a 42-year-old street vendor, who, along with her two young children, is attempting to escape the constant threat of stray bullets raining down on their home.

Despite the risks associated with travel through gang-controlled territory, where reports of gang rapes and armed assaults on public transport are prevalent, the majority of Haitians leaving Port-au-Prince are opting to travel by bus in search of safety.

The escalating violence has compelled Prime Minister Ariel Henry to announce his resignation once a transitional presidential council is established. However, the formation of this council remains pending, leaving the country in a state of uncertainty and prompting mass migration from the beleaguered capital.

As the crisis deepens, many, like 29-year-old Gary Dorval, remain determined to stay and contribute to the envisioned change, underscoring the resilience and determination of the Haitian people amidst adversity.

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