Haitians say the violence and economic stagnation stemming from a clash between the president and the opposition are worse than anything they have ever experienced.
By Kirk Semple
Photographs by Meridith Kohut
|Protesters last week in Les Cayes, Haiti, |
surrounded a vehicle that had been burned
in a previous demonstration. Impassable roads
have contributed to the country’s emergency.
Newborns breathing with the help of oxygen tubes
in the neonatal ward of Sainte Croix Hospital
in Léogâne, west of Port-au-Prince.
Hospitals are struggling with precarious supplies.
Trash piling up in Port-au-Prince, the capital,
where many public services have collapsed.
Frustration with the government has mounted,
leading to demonstrations like this one last week
in the coastal town of Les Cayes.
Confronting security forces in Port-au-Prince this month.
Opposition leaders have sought to harness Haitians’ anger
to force the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse.
At Sainte Croix Hospital in Léogâne,
patients like Gislaien Milord face dismal conditions.
Recently the hospital was down to one day’s
supply of oxygen, forcing difficult choices.
Street protests have intensified in recent months.
The turnout can bring even Port-au-Prince
to a standstill.
Gas shortages have worsened daily, one of
many persistent problems hobbling
already harsh lives.
Venise Jules, 55, a cleaning woman at a grade school and the mother of Ms. Molière, the unemployed secretary, said her entire family had voted for Mr. Moïse.
“He said everything would change,” she recalled. “We would have food on our plates, we would have electricity 24/7, we would have jobs for our children and salaries would increase.”
Ms. Jules, three of her five children and a cousin live in a narrow house in La Savane made from mud and stone. The corrugated metal roof leaks when it rains. The bathroom is an outhouse with a hole in the ground. With no running water, the family has to fill buckets at a public tap several blocks away.
They cook over coal — when they have something to cook.
“I didn’t put anything on the fire today,” Ms. Jules said. It had been a full day since she had eaten anything.
With the schools closed, Ms. Jules had been without work — or an income — for weeks. Even when she worked, earning $47 per month, she had not been able to amass any savings. Now she sends her children to eat at the homes of friends with something to spare.
Her despair, she said, has driven her to consider suicide.
“Haiti is very fragile,” she said.
Image Blackouts in Les Cayes exacerbate people’s anxieties. “I’m hiding out here, I’m hunkering down, I’m not even on my porch,” said one woman fearful of what anger and desperation might drive people to do.
Harold Isaac and Meridith Kohut contributed reporting.
Kirk Semple is a correspondent covering Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
He is based in Mexico City. @KirkSemple