Fostering coordination in Haiti as security crisis spirals

Amidst this fresh spike of violence, Mohamed Dabo, deployed to Haiti by iMMAP Inc. Global Surge, sheds light on the ramifications of escalating violence on humanitarian efforts in the country, underscoring the pivotal role of Information Management Officers in navigating crises.

In the wake of February's end, Haiti has plunged deeper into turmoil, grappling with a surge in violence perpetrated by armed groups that have tightened their grip on significant swathes of the country, notably in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. 

The eruption of violence across various neighborhoods of the capital on February 29th was compounded by the escape of thousands of inmates from Port-au-Prince's two main prisons the following day, exacerbating the prevailing insecurity. Within a matter of days, over 15,000 people were forced to flee the violence (OCHA), seeking refuge in overcrowded schools, resettlement sites, and makeshift shelters. Alarmingly, more than half of the country's 362,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are children (UNICEF), highlighting the level of vulnerability of the affected population. 

In a nation where half of its 11.7 million inhabitants require humanitarian assistance (OCHA), this latest surge of violence has disrupted an already precarious situation. As the airport is closed, and the main port (where most goods and products transit) was attacked and looted, the population faces an urgent need for access to essentials such as food, healthcare, water, and hygiene facilities, as highlighted by humanitarian organizations (OCHA). Furthermore, several hospitals and health centers have recently been targeted and forced to shutter (OCHA). 

Mohamed Dabo has been on the ground in Port-au-Prince since December 2023, deployed to the Food Security Cluster in Haiti with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) by iMMAP Inc. Global Surge. With more than 1.4 million Haitians teetering on the brink of famine (IPC), Mohamed sheds light on the ramifications of escalating violence on humanitarian efforts in the country and underscores the role of Information Management Officers (IMOs) in the time of crisis.  

How are you dealing with the current situation unfolding in Haiti?

Mohamed Dabo: The situation is quite volatile now. We are currently staying in a zone that is less impacted by armed groups violence, but occasional gunshots can still be heard. There are movement restrictions, and we do not go out. Our movements are limited until further notice. But we are adapting to the situation. 

How did Haiti end up in this situation?

In early 2023, protests erupted across the country, led by citizen movements, political parties, and various armed groups – seeking a change in the existing power structure. Tensions mounted throughout January and February, reaching a boiling point on February 29th when widespread violence led by armed groups erupted in numerous neighborhoods of the capital, Port-au-Prince. The situation escalated further on March 1st when thousands of inmates, seizing the chaos, escaped from two prisons in Port-au-Prince, intensifying the overall insecurity to alarming levels. Faced with the escalating danger, thousands of residents swiftly fled the violence-affected areas in search of safety.  In a few days, nearly 15,000 people were displaced by the violence. 

How does this recent surge of violence compound an already precarious situation?

Even before the escalation, accessing certain areas due to armed groups was challenging for humanitarian assistance. Now, similar issues persist but on a larger scale, with an increasing number of people in need. By the end of 2023, 314,000 people were displaced, and this figure rose to 362,000 – a 15% increase – in a matter of weeks. Some are trying to reach existing settlement sites that are now overcrowded, while we also observe the creation of new sites without proper reception structures. 

How is the situation impacting food security in a country where 1.4 million were already classified in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency) end of 2023?

In Haiti, most food and necessities are imported. However, recent violence has led to attacks on the airport in Port-au-Prince, suspending all commercial flights, and the main port, crucial for importing goods, has also been attacked and looted. This will undoubtedly affect the availability of food products, leading to a surge in prices due to scarcity. In addition, with limited local production, the population faces an imminent threat of hunger. 

As an Information Management Officer (IMO), when there is a “crisis in the crisis”, what is your main priority?

We must stay focused on coordination efforts. For a crisis like this one, we have contingency plans and strategies to follow – so we know what to do. We must keep prioritizing the tasks according to the current needs and adapt to the new conditions. For example, we are now working from home, but we have a lot of meetings with all actors and partners to coordinate efforts. Our role as IMOs remains the same: provide humanitarian partners with facts and figures to comprehend the ground reality and respond effectively to the crisis. But our best efforts won't be enough. What humanitarians need above all is security and constant access.

With the long-standing support of the USAID - Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), our Global Surge Team has been providing surge capacity support in emergency operations since 2012 through the Standby Partnership Programme.

Read the latest news from our deployees

Helping Food Security Partners Gain Insight into Gaza's Response Amid Famine Concerns

Enhancing Humanitarian Access Security in the Occupied Palestinian Territory through GIS

Navigating humanitarian challenges amid armed group violence in Haiti