By: Zoe Noakes. Edited by Brenna Miles.   |   Posted: April 19, 2024

Crisis in Haiti is placing children at risk. But in a country paralyzed by violence, the church is moving. Learn about the crisis and how to help.

Haiti Crisis Explained: What’s Happening & How You Can Help

Crisis in Haiti is placing children at risk. But in a country paralyzed by violence, the church is moving. Learn about the crisis and how to help.

Written by Zoe Noakes. Edited by Brenna Miles.
Photography by Chuck Bigger, Kyle Jaster, Ryan Johnson and Abby Chu.
Residential buildings in Haiti.

Gang activity in Haiti is placing children at serious risk. Many in Port-au-Prince, the country's capital city, are falling asleep to gunfire. And because accessing food is currently difficult, many are trying to ignore the nagging pain of hunger. Violence, kidnappings, road blockages and other scary happenings have crippled the city.

But even in a country paralyzed by violence, there’s hope. Here, you'll learn about what is happening in Haiti, why and how the local church is responding to the needs of the vulnerable, and how you can help.

Summary — Gang violence, resulting from political instability, extreme poverty and other factors, has paralyzed Haiti. Children are suffering from a lack of food and health care and are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Our local church partners are working to provide practical support on the ground, while praying for restoration for Haiti.

What’s Here:

What Is Happening in Haiti?

Many gangs are currently fighting for territory in Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti. According to the United Nations, gangs control around 80% of Port-au-Prince currently. Daily looting, kidnappings, road blockages and murders have closed the Port-au-Prince airport, shipping ports and hospitals, paralyzing the capital.

The gangs carry illegal weapons and far outnumber Haiti's police force. There are only 9,000 active-duty officers in a country that 11 million people call home.

Forced to take protection into their own hands, thousands of families in Haiti have fled Port-au-Prince. Currently, nearly 200,000 people, including children, are displaced across Haiti.

Many people in high-risk areas are forced to leave their homes. Moving around the capital city has become very dangerous. Fuel is hard to find. Therefore, we have to stay home as much as possible.

— Jonathan Clement, Compassion Video Producer

What Caused the Crisis in Haiti?

The socio-political crisis in Haiti has erupted after decades of challenges, such as political instability, extreme poverty and natural disasters.

Haiti Crisis Timeline

  • 2010: An earthquake devastates Haiti. A 7.0-magnitude earthquake reduced most of Port-au-Prince to ruins in 2010. The earthquake killed more than 200,000 people and left thousands homeless. A cholera outbreak soon after killed up to 10,000 people. In the chaos, dozens of gangs became active.
  • 2016: Hurricane Matthew hits. With many still struggling in the aftermath of the earthquake, Hurricane Matthew hits, leaving 200,000 families without homes. It also destroys crops and makes the cholera epidemic worse.
  • 2021: President Jovenel Moïse is assassinated. President Jovenel Moïse is shot, and Prime Minister Ariel Henry assumes power. Gang violence continues to increase.
  • January 2023: Planned elections don't take place. The government doesn't hold elections because of gang violence. Haiti is left without an elected government leader.
  • March 2024: Gang violence surges. Violence in Haiti increases as gangs try to remove Prime Minister Henry from power. Gangs attack police and work to take control of the country's main airport.
A beloved Haitian church buckles under structural damage after the 2021 earthquake

How Is the Haiti Crisis Affecting Children?

When an emergency strikes, children suffer the most. Those in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area are hungry, struggling with fear and living in danger of abuse and exploitation.

Children Are Hungry

The Haiti crisis is strangling the country's economy. Haiti is currently experiencing the worst food crisis in its history. Almost half the population doesn't have enough food to eat, and many children eat just one meal a day.

Why is food so hard to find? Gangs block the roads throughout the capital, keeping food from getting to families. In addition, the airport and seaport in Port-au-Prince are closed, preventing food from entering the capital.

"Most of the food we eat in Haiti is imported," explains Compassion Haiti video producer Jonathan. "Boats and planes usually land in the capital. With the road blockades, it's difficult to have trucks deliver food to the south."

Inflation has also increased, meaning food costs more than it used to. "Even if families had any kind of savings, it's all been used on food," says Abbel Joseph, senior manager for Compassion Haiti. "They have nothing left."

Children Face Serious Health Risks

Many of the hospitals in Port-au-Prince are in areas under gang control or influence. This places medical staff and patients at risk, and many hospitals have closed for safety.

Unfortunately, limited access to health services is dangerous for malnourished children who struggle to fight off bacteria and sickness. The United Nations expects at least 115,000 children to suffer from life-threatening malnutrition.

Children Are in Physical Danger

According to UNICEF, hundreds of children have been hit or injured by gunfire in Haiti, while sexual violence is also increasing. Children displaced from their homes are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

How Is Compassion Responding to the Haiti Crisis?

For children and their families in Haiti, circumstances are dark. But as the hands and feet of Jesus, we're called to be a shining light, a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14). Compassion, in partnership with our local church partners, is working to provide immediate aid and hope to those most affected.

In a city paralyzed by violence, the church is still moving, and we're moving with them.

As the God-ordained lifeline of the community, the local church follows Jesus into places of desperate need, delivering life-saving support. Our local church partners care for vulnerable children by providing practical help in the form of:

  • Food kits or cash transfers
  • Hygiene kits
  • Health care
  • Mental health, emotional and spiritual support

Compassion is working tirelessly to protect the children in our Haiti program from violence. We've partnered with churches in Haiti since 1968, and we remain committed to them.

It's important to remember that Compassion has been working in Haiti since 1968. They were there before the crisis, will be there during, and will remain long after the emergency has ended.

— Jonathan Clement
Young girls at a school in Haiti gather together and smile for the camera.

How to Help Haiti Now: Pray!

Prayer is powerful and our first defense when facing turmoil and chaos. God sees and loves those who are suffering. So we're asking him for wisdom, restoration and an end to this violence. Will you join us?

Edouard Lassege, Compassion’s regional vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean, has asked us to pray specifically for:

  • The protection of children, families, volunteers and staff affected by the violence.
  • Courage and safety for churches, pastors, church leaders and volunteers.
  • Compassion staff and volunteers who are under immense pressure as they lead their communities.
  • A solution for the crisis and an end to the violence.
  • Haiti's leadership to stand up and provide direction and stability.

While the Haiti crisis may look hopeless, we know the truth: God is still sovereign, powerful and able to redeem any situation. And the local church is still moving, sharing that hope with those who need it most.

Even in these hard times, we are seeing churches in Haiti doing amazing work, and we know it's all thanks to God.

— Jonathan Clement

* This content was last updated in April 2024

Help Vulnerable Children in Haiti

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You can help us meet the critical needs of children living in Haiti. Deliver lifesaving hope by becoming a Compassion Responder today.

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