Haiti’s Port Under Siege, State of Emergency Continues : What You Need To Know

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A wave of despair washes over Haiti as violence reaches a fever pitch. Intruders have breached a vital port, paralyzing the capital, Port-au-Prince, while the government desperately extends a state of emergency. The intrusion occurred on Thursday, a bleak testament to the nation’s worsening security crisis.

The government’s extended decree, a bid to quell the chaos, aims to maintain a semblance of control within Haiti’s Western Region and the capital until April 3rd. A curfew hangs heavy in the air, stretching until March 10th.

Odelyn Joseph/AP

Tragedy struck the Caribbean Port Services (CPS) terminal around 8 a.m. – a crucial link in Haiti’s strained food supply chain. Determined intruders surged into the gated warehouse area, its contents now frighteningly vulnerable. Distress echoes from the port – unrest continues to churn, and scenes of the intrusion paint a heartbreaking picture. Hundreds of people flood the streets, and dozens appear to force their way into the gated warehouse.

Satellite images, cold and clinical, only confirm the grim reality. Crowds swarm the container port terminal, and the aftermath shows heartbreaking evidence of the intrusion. One image reveals what appears to be debris scattered across the area. Another, from the day before, ominously captures a Haitian National Police vehicle standing sentinel on a major roadway – a futile defense against the coming storm.

Gangs Target Haiti’s Power Structure

The source of Haiti’s agony stems from a surge of terrifyingly organized gang attacks targeting law enforcement and government institutions. Gang leader Jimmy Cherizier boldly proclaims this an effort to overthrow Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s government.

RICHARD PIERRIN / AFP via Getty Images

The relentless violence suffocates Port-au-Prince. Gangs incinerate police stations, inmates break free from ravaged prisons, and Cherizier chillingly alludes to his twisted vision for the future – “a civil war that will end in genocide.”

Thousands flee their homes, adding to the already unfathomable number – over 300,000 – displaced by unchecked gang violence. The chaos severs critical lifelines. Aid organizations and their crucial supplies languish, trapped within a city under siege. The World Food Programme’s maritime transport service, meant to be a beacon of hope, has ground to a halt in Port-au-Prince.

Dozens of aid-filled trucks – vital food, medical supplies, and equipment – are held hostage at the port, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). These sea routes are not simply logistical pathways; they are the only way to reach Haiti’s most remote regions with essential aid.

A Healthcare System in Ruins

Haiti’s healthcare system teeters on the brink. Violence, dwindling supplies, and dwindling personnel leave health centers in tatters. In Port-au-Prince’s metropolitan area, a single public hospital carries the weight of an entire city. Emergency services are crippled. Since this past weekend, Hôpital Universitaire la Paix has treated nearly 70 gunshot victims, and that’s just one facility in a sea of suffering.

Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters/File

Doctors plead for help. Oxygen tanks run dry, water supplies dwindle, and the specter of death haunts every corridor. “Hospitals have closed their doors in the heart of the capital,” declares Ronald Laroche, a doctor managing a network of private hospitals. He paints a devastating picture of gangs seizing medical centers – two of his own lie destroyed, now dens for criminals.

Haiti’s civil protection authorities are overwhelmed. The true toll of this violence remains shrouded in the fog of chaos.

International voices urge Prime Minister Henry to relinquish power and pave the way for a desperately needed political transition. An unelected leader clinging to power in the midst of bloodshed, Henry’s failure to hold promised elections fuels further unrest. His return journey to Haiti became fraught with peril as regional neighbors turned their backs on the embattled leader.

A satellite image shows the aftermath of the port breach in Haiti. – Pléiades Neo/Airbus

In the Bahamas, a maritime blockade now guards against a feared wave of desperate migrants fleeing Haiti. Concern swells over the recent prison breaks – could violent criminals seek a new haven by boat?

Haiti’s suffering has been an agonizingly slow burn for years, but now the flames threaten to consume the nation entirely. This is a humanitarian crisis, and every day it deepens is a day too long.

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