Voices of The Displaced

Clashes between armed gangs, the displaced speak to us.

Ndiaga Seck
A young girl in the displaced persons site.
09 May 2022

Since 24 April, hundreds of men, women and children have been forced to flee their homes as clashes between rival gangs flared in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Some 9,000 people got displaced from Croix-des-Bouquets, Tabarre and Cité Soleil due to insecurity. As of 3 May, 752 people including at least 124 women and 200 children found refuge on nine sites in Tabarre. In 10 days, 10 children were killed, six in one day.

Half a million children have lost access to education due to gang-related violence. Almost 1,700 schools are currently closed in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince as clashes between rival gangs flared since the end of April.

A young girl in the displaced persons site.
Marceline S. is 12 years old, she wants to go home and go back to school.

“I’d like to go home and go back to school.”

“My name is Marceline S., and I am 12 years old. My mom was forced to flee with us so that we wouldn't be victims of the fights between the gangs. We took detours, so the gunmen couldn't see us. Otherwise, they would force us to stay in the area and shoot us. They burn houses, kill innocent people. They are very wicked.

I can't stay at home because there's a lot of shooting, and that's why I'm here. I don't like where we are now because people argue and make a lot of noise. I would like everything to be back to normal so that I can go home and go back to school. My dream is to study medicine to help my parents.”

Some 93 displaced families found refuge in Kay Castor site private school, including 145 children with many under five years of age. They live in precarious conditions with no adequate hygiene and sanitation, no access to basic services, a lack of clean drinking water and no privacy for women and children with an increased risk of gender-based violence.

A woman in the IDP site.
42-year-old Morose G. fled her neighborhood because of insecurity.

“I have six children and we all fled empty handed.”

“My name is Morose G. and I’m 42. I live in the small town of Gallette. I was forced to leave my home to come to this temporary shelter because of the shooting that takes place every day in the area. I have six children and we all fled empty handed. With the in security in the area, schools are closed so children cannot go there. I was scared in my neighborhood because of insecurity and sexual violence. Luckily, we don't have that kind of problem here.

We would like to have financial assistance so that we can reorganize ourselves, find another place to stay so that the children can be safe.  If the authorities want to respond to our request, we would like them to choose another place or give us a little financial support so that we can go to the province and settle there.”

Women and children in Haiti’s capital fear their lives and their children’s lives. They suffer from kidnappings, burned houses, killings and displacements as their lives are constantly endangered by persistent urban gang violence. Already impacted by the COVID-19 adverse effects, in addition to the country’s natural disasters, Haitian families continue to flee for their lives.

A young woman helps a displaced child.
Desire, a displaced nurse, participates in the activities at the displaced persons site by helping other women and children.

“The only option we had was to leave our house”

“My name is Desire M. and I’m 30 years old. The reason I'm here unexpectedly is that after work Saturday night, we heard a lot of gunshots…The only option we had was to leave our house and come to this place with the risk of not having to eat or drink. You may notice that there are pregnant women, children, and even newborn babies. I don’t know the cause of these clashes with firearms, but we had to evacuate the area so as not to be victims.

Our life here is not satisfactory here but as we have no other choice, we manage as best we can to ensure our survival. The place is not suitable for all these people, we sleep on the floor without blankets, the children risk catching cold with the windows open and the wind blowing…Many of them have caught severe flu and are at risk of catching pneumonia as they sleep almost naked on the floor.

Children do not have the opportunity to go to school because the parents do not have enough money to send them to school. Without anything to eat, families are forced to buy the essentials with what they have in hand, including baby diapers, milk, etc. All these people are traumatized by the situation and that is why they are not thinking about sending their children to school.”

Children’s future is threatened by gangs. Insecurity robs thousands of children of their education. Many schools in the capital city remain empty due to gang violence, are occupied by gangs or by displaced families.

A UNICEF staff talks to a displaced person.
A UNICEF staff talks with Nelson J. about his situation since the clashes between the gangs.

“Along the way we were robbed by the bandits”

“My name is Nelson J., and I am 32. We were sleeping when we heard gunshots, people were screaming outside. I could not go out because it was still dark. In the morning, I took my wife, my children and some belongings to leave the area, but along the way we were robbed by the bandits. I’ve only kept the sheet for the baby. I have been living on this site with the family since Sunday and I don't know if my house was destroyed or not.

Before these clashes, I lived well, I had a shop and business was good. Now, to feed my family, I have to go begging. It is frustrating because my family and I are not used to living a precarious life.”

UNICEF and its partner NGO OCCED’H organized psychosocial activities to help displaced children forget their ordeal and the horrors they witnessed.

Children smiling while participating in psychosocial activities.
Children participate in psychosocial activities organized by UNICEF and its partner OCCED'H at the Kay Castor IDP site in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

“Families, women and children are afraid to leave their house, children are afraid to go to school. No child can go to school while bullets are flying in the air, it is unsafe and this cannot be,” says Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti.