World·CBC Explains

After armoured vehicles from Canada land in Port-au-Prince, here's a look at Haiti's latest security crisis

Foreign military aid requested by Haiti's beleaguered government has arrived in the Caribbean country — including armoured vehicles from Canada — as a security crisis intensifies. CBC News breaks down some of the causes of Haiti's crisis and what could happen next. 

On Monday, UN Security Council could discuss Haiti's request for military intervention

Haiti in the grips of humanitarian crisis as gangs block main fuel terminal

4 months ago
Duration 1:57
Daily life for many Haitians has been thrown into turmoil as gang violence and soaring inflation make it difficult to access basic necessities like water, food and fuel. Canada is among the countries grappling with how to respond.

Warning: This story contains some content that may be disturbing.

Foreign military aid requested by Haiti's beleaguered government has arrived in the Caribbean country — including armoured vehicles from Canada — as a security crisis intensifies. 

Armed gangs have been blockading Haiti's main port since last month following a move by Ariel Henry, Haiti's unelected prime minister, to cut fuel subsidies.

Kidnappings and other crimes are rife; hospitals and banks are often closed as they are unable to access fuel and basic supplies. 

Haiti's government has appealed for military intervention from foreign troops to help quell the violence and end the fuel blockade. The United Nations Security Council could discuss that proposal on Monday.

People carry a woman's body after she was shot by police during a protest demanding the resignation of Ariel Henry, Haiti's unelected prime minister, in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince on Oct. 10. (Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press)

Meanwhile, nearly 100,000 children under five years old are suffering from severe malnutrition, the United Nations warned on Friday. And a new cholera outbreak is spreading.

CBC News breaks down some of the causes of Haiti's crisis and what could happen next. 

How did Haiti get to this point? 

Pinpointing the beginning of the most recent round of unrest is not simple; Haiti has been suffering from economic, governance and security challenges for decades.

"What's going on now is not new," Chantal Ismé from the Montreal-based group Maison d'Haïti told CBC's The National.

Some analysts say the power of the gangs has grown since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, exacerbating previous political and security challenges. 

WATCH | Canada pledged $42M to Haiti in January aid funding:

Canada pledges $42M to Haiti in new aid funding

1 year ago
Duration 2:01
Canadian officials used a virtual summit to pledge an additional $42 million in aid funding to Haiti, to improve the country’s security situation.

Who are the gangsters behind recent unrest? 

Led by former police officer Jimmy Chérizier, nicknamed Barbecue, the port blockade has been organized by an alliance of gangsters known as "G9 and Family."

After overpowering an understaffed and under-resourced police department, the gangs have gone so far as to request seats in the governing cabinet, demanding that Henry's government grant amnesty and void arrest warrants against their members. 

The gangs use extortion, violence and rape to control territory, particularly in Haiti's poorest slums, observers say. Helen La Lime, the top UN official in Haiti, told reporters that human rights abuses including rape and sexual assault have reached alarming levels.

Gangs, who control an estimated 60 per cent of the capital of Port-au-Prince, have raped children as young as 10 and elderly women as well, according to the UN.

How is the current humanitarian situation? 

In short, dire. 

A report published Friday by UN agencies and international aid groups said a record 4.7 million people in Haiti are facing acute hunger, including 19,000 in catastrophic famine conditions for the first time, all in the gang-controlled Cité Soleil slum of Port-au-Prince.

The United Nations Population Fund said Friday that 30,000 pregnant women are at risk because roughly three-fourths of Haiti's hospitals are unable to provide services due to a lack of fuel.

The re-emergence of cholera was first reported on Oct. 2, according to the UN. Since then, there have been 357 suspected cases, with more than half of them involving children under age 14. 

A hospital worker cleans inside a tent where people suffering from cholera symptoms are treated at a clinic run by Doctors Without Borders in Port-au-Prince on Oct. 7. (Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press)

"Today, we wage a fierce war against malnutrition and cholera, two deadly threats that put children's lives at risk," Bruno Maes, UNICEF's representative in Haiti, said in a news release on Friday. "Time is against us, as cholera spreads rapidly and there is a risk of the outbreak growing out of control."

Will foreign troops be deployed to tackle unrest? 

Last week, UN Secretary General António Guterres called for the establishment of an international force to assist Haiti's police in tackling the gangs. 

Weibert Arthus, Haiti's ambassador to Canada, told The National it's difficult for the country to resolve its current problems "without international help." 

A man carries a piece of wood simulating a weapon during a protest in the Petion-Ville area of Port-au-Prince on Oct. 3 that was held to demand Henry's resignation. (Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press)

The U.S. has drafted a United Nations Security Council resolution to encourage the "immediate deployment of a multinational rapid action force" to Haiti to address the country's security problems, the Miami Herald reported Saturday, referring to a copy of the resolution.

It's unclear what such a force would look like or which countries would be represented, the Herald reported, citing U.S. and UN officials. 

Some observers, however, are not optimistic that outside forces would meaningfully address the situation, noting that past foreign military interventions have not left Haiti better off. 

 "Why now would we trust these people?" Ismé, of Maison d'Haïti, said of the possibility of international military intervention. 

A woman walks with her children near a smouldering pile of garbage in Port-au-Prince on Sept. 28. (Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press)

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press