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HAITI: Salesians offer support in crisis

Haiti humanitarian emergency

People facing continuous humanitarian emergency


(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries in Haiti have remained in the country but much of their school and youth center activities have stopped in the face of ongoing gang violence. Father Victor Auguste, a Salesian in the capital of Port-au-Prince, told Aleteia, “We are still working in areas that are very, very difficult.” Fr. Auguste reports there are times he isn’t even sure he can get to the church to celebrate Sunday Mass.

Haiti was plunged into extreme poverty after the 2010 earthquake and it has never recovered. Following the earthquake, Haiti faced an economic crisis, the impossibility of controlling violence in the streets, the assassination of its president and another earthquake in 2021. All of this, coupled with tropical storms and the COVID-19 pandemic, has thrown the population into a continuous humanitarian emergency.

The current explosion of violence started when acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced his commitment to hold elections before August 2025, even though his term had ended on Feb. 7. He has been unable to return to Haiti after a trip out of the country, as gangs have closed the main international airport, according to an article in Aleteia. Henry had been serving since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Under pressure from criminal gangs, he has since resigned.

Aleteia also reported that police officer-turned gang leader Jimmy Chérizier has led an effort to unify the gangs. The gangs stormed Haitian prisons and released close to 5,000 prisoners. The country has been besieged by fires, shootings and attempted assaults on the National Palace.

According to the United Nations, more than 1,200 people have been killed since January and an additional 5,000 over the last year. This instability has also caused about 300,000 displaced people. With criminal gangs controlling about 80% of the territory of Port-au-Prince, hospitals are unable to treat the wounded, many shops have been looted and corpses of the victims remain unburied in the streets. There have already been several reported cases of cholera.

A Salesian noted, “The situation in Haiti is chaotic. There are no words to describe it. We are living in hell. Ordinary people, many of whom are engaged in selling wares on the streets and in public markets, are unable to do so, as gun violence is prevalent.”

As indicated in the Aleteia article, Fr. Auguste is hearing from many Salesians across Haiti. “I am receiving messages from confreres who have difficulties because they cannot find food. They cannot find some products in the market. But even if I had them in my house here, I cannot give them because I cannot go into the streets.”

Haiti is awaiting the deployment of an international security support mission led by Kenya and approved by the United Nations last October. A Salesian said, “We live in fear, because we don’t know what could happen from one minute to the next. This is our life and we ask you to pray and not to forget us.”

Salesian missionaries began working in Haiti in 1935 in response to the Haitian government’s request for a professional school. Since then, Salesian missionaries have expanded their work to include 11 main educational centers and more than 200 schools across the country.

The 11 main centers each include a number of primary and secondary schools, vocational training centers, and other programs for street children and youth in need. Salesian programs are located throughout Haiti, including in the cities of Port-au-Prince, Fort-Liberté, Cap-Haïtien, Les Cayes and Gressier. Today, Salesian missionaries in Haiti provide the largest source of education outside of the Haitian government with schools providing education to 25,500 primary and secondary school students.



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