Political impasse in Haiti is exacerbating the humanitarian crisis

Clashes between security forces and demonstrators have become a regular occurrence in Haiti, amidst aid shortages and an upsurge in Covid-19 cases. Protesters are condemning institutional violence and President Jovenel Moise’s unconstitutional behavior. For months, many people have taken to the streets of Port-au-Prince to protest against Jovenel Moise’s refusal to step down from power, urging him to respect constitutional principles that suggest his tenure should have ended earlier this year. Moise, on the other hand, maintains that his term does not expire until February 2022 and that he intends to resign only until then. According to legal experts and clergy members, Moise’s five-year term began when he was elected in 2016, even though Moise did not take office officially until the following year. While this has recently been the source of political tensions, it should not overshadow the fact that many are dissatisfied with Moise’s administration and his handling of the security situation in Haiti.

The country and its people are no strangers to challenges; however, protesters claim that the country has reached a new low in recent months. The country is facing a multifaceted crisis, with the current political deadlock at the centre of it’s instability. The current state of food insecurity is concerning, owing less to natural disasters and more to the country’s economic downturn and social-political upheaval. With inflation nearing 25%, Haitians are unable to afford food and are becoming severely malnourished as a result. Indeed, nearly four million people are suffering from acute hunger. Civilians continue to face a myriad of threats on a daily basis. The prolonged political impasse has allowed gang violence and kidnappings to proliferate throughout the country, putting Haitians’ security and safety at constant risk. According to Al Jazeera and activists on the ground, the government appears unwilling and/or unable to stabilize the deteriorating security situation. In the last nine months, 13,900 people have been forced to flee their homes due to unprecedented levels of violence and a lack of protection, with 5,984 of them being children.

Despite the efforts of international agencies and organizations such as the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide immediate relief to affected populations, their activities have been interrupted in many instances owing to road obstructions caused by large protests and gang activity. Currently, 1.5 million Haitians require humanitarian assistance, including over 700,000 children. Yet, UNICEF’s humanitarian appeal of $ 48.9 million has remained almost entirely underfunded.

The number of Covid-19 cases in Haiti is also increasing, threatening to overwhelm the country’s already frail healthcare system. The population of 11 million people is densely packed, and even more so now as a result of recent waves of protests that have caused large numbers of people to gather. Haiti is one of the few countries that has yet to begin vaccinating its population as it awaits its first shipment of vaccines. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Haiti was supposed to receive around 130,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on June 14. However, the shipment has been delayed due to production issues. The new arrival date is unclear as of late June. Aside from the slow vaccine rollout, fellow Haitians are increasingly skeptical of the AstraZeneca vaccine, especially because it was first rejected by the Haitian government due to their concerns about adverse side effects such as blood clotting that have been linked to the AstraZeneca brand. A vaccine hesitancy now looms and must be addressed. From April 1st to June 5th, 2021, the number of confirmed cases increased from 12,840 to 16,079, with experts claiming that this figure does not reflect the true scale of infections.

On June 27, Haitians were set to vote in a controversial constitutional referendum that was likely to result in an increase in presidential power; however, the referendum has since been postponed to an undetermined date. The deadly surge in Covid infections has been cited as one of the major reasons for the referendum’s postponement.

Nevertheless, the constitutional crisis in which the country finds itself in must be settled as soon as possible in order for the country to regain some stability. The real and ongoing human rights violations that affect the daily lives of Haitians must be addressed promptly.

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