Conflicts & War

The children fleeing Haiti’s bloody gang wars

By Milo Milfort

Port-au-Prince, Jul 25 (EFE).- Esperancia Rémy is one of hundreds of children forced to flee brutal gang violence in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince.

“The shooting is loud, it still rings in my head,” the 12-year-old, who is taking refuge at the Delmas 33 school while her parents stay in Cité Soleil, an impoverished slum in the capital city, told Efe.

Gang violence in Cité Soleil has left hundreds dead and thousands displaced, according to human rights organizations.

Some 700 children from the commune, most of them unaccompanied, have sought refuge with the Kizito Family, a religious charity organization.

The few women who were able to leave Cité Soleil with their children speak of the horrors they witnessed.

“I saw how they burned people alive,” one woman, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Efe. “They burned a woman’s baby inside her house,” another adds.

Michelet Jean, 16, has sought refuge from the violence. Last year, his brother Peter survived a gang shooting.

“I have seen a lot of dead people. I saw people fighting in the war, injured people, people who were taken to hospital,” he told Efe.

Those who have fled the conflict bear testimony to the atrocities committed by the gangs since the clashes broke out in Cité Soleil on July 7 between the G9 gangs led by former police officer Jimmy Chérizier, alias Barbecue, and the GPEP, led by Ti Gabriel.

The gangs of Port-au-Prince have capitalized on perpetual humanitarian and political crises in the country and have expanded to control a third of the capital’s metropolitan area in the last three years, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Death tolls are difficult to pinpoint.

The OCHA estimated that gang violence has killed at least 99 people and injured 135 in Haiti, but the international human rights network (RNDDH) puts that figure at 300 deaths and 160 injured.

Haitians who have witnessed the violence first-hand say the real toll will never be known.

“As soon as they get you, they burn you alive,” says one displaced mother of three.

The victims are not just gang members, but also civilians, children, babies and women, the displaced residents of Cité Soleil tell Efe.

“The majority of the children have left with only the clothes they had on. They have nothing,” Sister Paësie, the founder of the Kizito family who has worked with the residents of Cité Soleil for years, told Efe.

Aged between six and 17, “they’re in need of everything” from water to mattresses and sheets, Paësie, a French nun, added.

The missionary added that her organization receives aid from Unicef and the World Food Programme but that the resources were struggling to meet demand given the sheer quantity of displaced children.

She said that one of the children at the center saw their father being burned alive, while another does not know where their parents are.

Related Articles

Back to top button