For more than a year now, a large portion of Port-au-Prince has been controlled by gangs, and since President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination last July, the situation has further deteriorated. The gangs now control some of the country’s fuel supply, and they frequently stop vehicles at gunpoint to charge a “tax” in order to pass through roads they control. This has resulted in a dramatic increase in the cost of living and fuel scarcity. The recent series by the Haitian Times entitled Gangs in Haiti: A deeper look gives a good overview of this crisis.
The situation escalated when the price of fuel recently rose to unprecedented levels. It is the equivalent of over $5 USD at the pump, but here in Jeremie, we are forced to buy it on the black market for the equivalent of $20 USD or more. All the while, most people in Haiti survive through odd jobs or commerce on the street that generate very little income. People are struggling to afford food, and now they can barely pay for a moto-taxi to get to and from work or school.
Enraged by this situation, people have been taking to the streets all over Haiti in protest. At first, these protests were mostly peaceful, but the last few days have brought more pillaging and looting. It’s easy to focus on the pillaging and looting, but the underlying issue is that the people are suffering, and they know that the systems in the country aren’t working for them. They are crying “nou bouke” meaning “we are tired.”
“The capital is completely locked down. The capital is more and more aggressive. I haven’t been out on the street for 8 days.”– Thrive Ansanm Student (Port-au-Prince)
Our staff on the ground are in communication with our students and their families, and we are keeping our resource center open as much as possible. One of our students in Port-au-Prince recently said, “The capital is completely locked down. The capital is more and more aggressive. I haven’t been out on the street for 8 days.” Another Port-au-Prince student told us, “They’re blocking the roads with the demonstrations. Sometimes you hear gunshots.”
Given the tense situation, the government has pushed the start of the school year back from September 6 to October 3. Meanwhile, we are keeping our resource center open as much as possible. Sometimes protests make it unsafe to be on the streets, but when it is safe, we are open. We are also actively connecting with new prospective students for our program. Once a student is sponsored, their tuition, books, and school supplies are covered. They also receive a monthly stipend to help with food and transportation costs. Not only are we giving a child the gift of education, but we are also enabling their parents to put all of their resources toward basic necessities such as food and water because they don’t have to worry about school costs.
“If tomorrow Lord willing Haiti should change, we will need professionals and intellectuals. Not just anyone can manage the country. It’s the young people who will step in. But the most important thing is, despite the current situation, we must believe, work hard, and study.”– Thrive Ansanm Student (Jeremie)
This support has never been more of a lifeline for families than it is right now because people are in survival mode. One of our Jeremie students summed it up well, “Our strategy is we live day by day, so as you see, you figure out a way to do what you can, however you can.” She continued, “If tomorrow Lord willing Haiti should change, we will need professionals and intellectuals. Not just anyone can manage the country. It’s the young people who will step in. But the most important thing is, despite the current situation, we must believe, work hard, and study.” Even as we are saddened by the current humanitarian crisis happening in Haiti, we remain hopeful, and we are more committed than ever to empowering young people in Haiti to thrive and achieve their potential.