As the humanitarian situation in Haiti is rapidly escalating, with 5.2 million of people living in need of aid, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) joins the calls by the UN and non-governmental actors for urgent and meaningful action to prevent further deterioration and help people gain control of their future. 

Intensifying gang violence in the country is a factor that worsens the effects of other risks that Haitians encounter every day–from political instability to rising food insecurity, cholera outbreaks and vulnerability to the effects of climate shocks. It is estimated that 60% of Port-au-Prince is under the rule of multiple gangs, forcing over 155,000 to leave their homes. 

Victor Napoletano, the IRC’s Emergency Team Leader in Haiti, said:

“With millions of people in need of aid, and a Humanitarian Response Plan barely funded at 50% in 2022, fostering investments and support from the international community in the frontlines of the humanitarian response must be a priority. 

Breaking the cycle of the crisis in places like Haiti requires, in addition to sufficient funding, interventions focused on solving urgent needs–such as addressing cholera and food insecurity–and promoting responses led by national organizations. In the case of this emergency, we must not forget to think holistically and regionally, which means supporting Haitians across the arc of the crisis: in their communities of origin but also in places where they might be in transit or trying to rebuild their lives.”

In addition to causing displacement, violence creates a disruption in people’s livelihoods and leaves them with low coping capacity as they have experienced a cholera outbreak since October 2022. As of the end of February 2023, the country had registered over 33,000 suspected cholera cases, almost 2,400 confirmed cases and nearly 600 deaths. 

Armed violence also plays a role in a risk identified by the IRC in the 2023 Emergency Watchlist report: the disruption in the delivery of humanitarian aid that approximately 50% of the population needs. As the police have limited ability to prevent gangs from taking control of critical facilities and routes, and armed violence keeps worsening, humanitarian workers continually encounter security and logistic challenges to provide critical goods and services. 

The IRC’s response to the Haiti crisis

The IRC has a history of supporting Haiti throughout the worst impacts of crises since the earthquake that devastated the country in 2010. In December 2022, the IRC launched a response through emergency donations and longer term support to Haitian partners working in Port-au-Prince, initially focusing on cholera prevention, running mobile health clinics for internally displaced people and support for survivors of gender-based violence. Additionally, the IRC serves Haitians on the move throughout the arc of the crisis in countries where the IRC has a programmatic response, including Mexico