As Haiti descends into hell, the world watches, does nothing

by | Sep 3, 2023 | Comment, Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — This has to stop. That’s what you tell yourself. People cannot live every day with murder and destruction.

They cannot live with gangs marching into their neighborhoods, setting their homes on fire and chasing residents into the streets, leaving them to flee everything they own and sleep with their children huddled in public squares.

They cannot live with gang members killing husbands in front of their wives, or raping wives on the bodies of their dead husbands, or shooting parents in front of their children, coldly, deliberately, without hesitation or an ounce of compassion.

They cannot live with daily kidnappings, nearly 1,000 already this year, people yanked out of lines, snatched off of buses, or ordered from their cars at gunpoint.

They cannot live with the inability to travel anywhere, because the roads are controlled by bandits who demand payment for passage, whether you are going to a funeral or taking your child to the hospital.

They cannot live with basic needs such as food or fuel controlled by gangs who can shut off the supply at any time, sending black market prices soaring.

They cannot live with bullets by day, fires by night, terror around the clock.

This has to stop.

Any decent human being would agree with that.

So why hasn’t it?

The country can’t save itself

This has to stop. You can’t run a country when the government has one unelected man in office and literally nobody else in charge.

You can’t run a country when there hasn’t been an election in seven years.

You can’t run a country when police officers are more poorly armed than gangs, when cops quit in frustration, when officers join the criminals to survive, or provide uniforms to gang members to pose as police and continue their crimes.

You can’t run a country when hospitals must close for fear of gang violence. You can’t run a country when doctors won’t come to work and nurses flee.

You can’t run a country when a major tuberculosis center has to close due to gang violence, as one did last week, and all the sick patients are released into the streets, sparking fear of a TB outbreak in a nation where that disease is still a killer.

You can’t run a country when churches aren’t safe, when orphanages aren’t safe, when missionaries are kidnapped, when congregations are shot at.

You can’t run a country when citizens, feeling abandoned by everyone, take to fighting back with the same brutal violence inflicted upon them, murdering gang members in the streets, burning their bodies, lynching them in public.

Yes, I said lynching. There have been multiple lynchings here in 2023. That word alone is enough to spark outrage and action in America.

Why does no one care when it happens in Haiti?

This has to stop.

Why hasn’t it?

Time for America to step in

Why hasn’t the U.S., which occupied Haiti for 15 years in the 20th century, which wrote its constitution, which stored Haiti’s money in its banks, stepped forward to keep this nation from slipping into hell?

Why has the U.S. refused to lead a humanitarian effort to save the citizens from slaughter here? There have been some 2,400 reported murders in Haiti in the first seven and half months of this year alone. They are dying from terror. When America lost 2,996 citizens to terror on 9/11, it sparked a decadeslong war that in some ways is still going on.

No one expects America to react as strongly to a horror that isn’t its own. But it should make us sensitive to terrorism. And that’s what life in Haiti is now. Daily terrorism. By violent, lawless men.


Ninety minutes away in an airplane.

This isn’t Afghanistan. This isn’t Ukraine. Haiti is 700 miles off the shores of Florida. If China or Russia showed a sudden military interest in this island, you can be sure there would be swift action.

But saving people from daily murder and mayhem isn’t a good enough reason to get involved? Instead, the U.S. Embassy cleared out most of its people and issued a warning last week that all Americans here, like me, should get out now.

That’s an answer?

Where is the rest of the world? This isn’t a new situation. When the 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti, the U.N. came here, and for the next seven years, while the nation rebuilt, there was relative peace, there were elections, and people moved freely about.

But against the advice of many, the U.N. pulled out before Haitian police were fully staffed and trained, and the quick and steady power grab by gangs began. In the last two years, 200,000 people have reportedly been chased from their homes by this violence. Two hundred thousand? And as the bodies pile up in the streets, the U.N. dithers with resolutions.

This has to stop.

Why hasn’t it?

Just imagine if you were here

I have been coming here to Haiti every month since early 2010. I operate an orphanage here. Over the years, we have been home to more than 100 amazing children, whose faith, joy and optimism are remarkable, given that many come to us with no parents, no shelter, and no birth certificates.

With all their worldly possessions fitting in a single 12-inch cubby, they go on to grow, play, love, develop compassion and become highly educated, with a dozen already thriving in universities in America and one in medical school at Michigan State. Many more will follow. And all of them are committed to returning to Haiti to make their country better.

But what will they come back to? What will be left? Last week, gangs set a police station on fire in the strategic neighborhood of Carrefour-Feuilles, and chased people from their homes during the night. They went running through the streets, hoping not to be murdered.

If Carrefour-Feuilles should fall into gang control, the fear is the sliver of Port-au-Prince that has remained out of the gangs’ hands will soon fall as well.

Our orphanage is one neighborhood away. These past few nights, our staff has huddled around a table, contemplating an evacuation plan. How do you move 60 children and 40 staff members? Where do we go? How do we feed everyone? Find somewhere to sleep? What happens to the home we have built here? Must we abandon everything and run?

Imagine strange men showing up one night and setting your house on fire, or entering with guns and telling you to leave now, never come back.

History has witnessed this before. And when outside nations don’t act, the results are disastrous.

Don’t listen to intellectuals who have never set foot here telling you that Haitians don’t want help because it’s akin to occupation. No one cares about labels when men with rifles are approaching.

I can tell you — anyone here can tell you — that the people are desperate for outside intervention. A poll in February showed that 70% of Haitians were in favor of it. I promise you that number is much higher now.

This has to stop. You would tell yourself that if you were in the middle of it. It’s madness. It’s horrifying. And while I appreciate my government telling me to get out for my own safety, what about the children we take care of? Are they worth less than me?

With all due respect, the answer isn’t getting out. It’s getting in. This has to stop. The only way it will is if the world ceases rolling its eyes at Haiti and starts thinking of the innocent people here as they would think their own families. And takes action.

Contact Mitch Albom: Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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