| 19 June 2024, Wednesday |

Haitians fleeing gangs set up camp around capital’s main square

On Friday, thousands of Haitians prepared to sleep in schools and a theater around Port-au-Prince’s main plaza, as new attacks by armed gangs forced previously displaced citizens downtown to seek refuge wherever they could.

Renel Destina’s Gran Ravine gang has surrounded the densely populated area of Carrefour Feuilles for weeks, forcing relief workers to leave and thousands of civilians to flee their homes. Police have failed to keep the violence at bay due to a lack of resources.

Dailove Pompilus, who was nine months pregnant at the time, claimed she had no alternative but to travel to the Champ de Mars square when a gang invaded her home in Carrefour Feuilles and killed her three-year-old son.

“My first child,” she said. “They burned down the house with him inside.”

Sophia Jean, another resident, fled with her 8-month-old baby and the clothes on her back. “I did not have time to take anything,” she said.

By nightfall, people took refuge at nearby schools and the Rex theater.

Yves Penel, a theater manager speaking at the main square, said hundreds of people had arrived overnight on Thursday and they had created committees to manage food, water and hygiene.

“I grew up in Carrefour Feuilles,” said Penel. “We will do what we have to do.”

The United Nations estimates more than 10,000 people have been displaced in the last two weeks alone.

Thursday night marked the first time since the catastrophic 2010 earthquake that people have camped in the Champ de Mars, the capital’s main square that is home to historical monuments honoring heroes of the Haitian Revolution.

  • Reuters