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MAF to suspend operations in Haiti beginning April 1

MAF will be suspending operation in Haiti from 1 April 2023 until January 2024. High levels of gang warfare and violence
Due to consistently high levels of gang violence in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, MAF has no choice but to suspend its operations in the country from 1 April to 1 January 2024. Current operations are neither safe nor sustainable. We get the latest from MAF Haiti’s Crisis Management Team.

MAF management will use this nine-month suspension period to modify its existing programme in the hope of serving Haitians in a safer, more sustainable way in future.

The UN Security Council met in New York on 24 January to discuss Haiti’s ‘dire humanitarian and security situation’. The UN’s Alice Jacobs called on world leaders to respond to Haiti’s request for international assistance as the country descends into chaos:

The figures speak for themselves: 58% of the population under the poverty line; 4.7 million acutely food insecure and an increase of kidnappings in 2022 of over 100% compared to the previous year. We’ve also heard chilling accounts of the widespread use of sexual violence by armed gangs as a weapon to instil fear into communities.’

– Alice Jacobs, UK Deputy Political Coordinator at the UN

By January, the last remaining 10 senators officially left office, leaving the country without a functioning parliament despite several failed attempts to hold elections. Gangs now control two-thirds of the capital, Port-au-Prince (source: The Guardian).

Most streets in Port-au-Prince are controlled by gangs (credit: Eric Fagerland)
Most streets in Port-au-Prince are controlled by gangs (credit: Eric Fagerland)

Haiti’s development and democracy have been seriously hampered. Infrastructure is crumbling and the police are overwhelmed.

So great is the threat to peace, stability and security in recent months, that MAF Haiti’s Crisis Management Team decided to evacuate the spouses and children of international MAF staff to the US for safety.

Reports of gang violence near a MAF residence sparked the move.

Since then, pilots and engineers have been living in MAF’s hangar at Port-au-Prince Airport carrying out their work on a rotation basis – three weeks in Haiti and two weeks in the US to spend with their families.

International staff are sleeping in the hangar for safety (credit: Zacharie H. Francois)
International staff are sleeping in the hangar for safety (credit: Zacharie H. Francois)
Another MAF staffer is sleeping in the store room (credit: Zacharie H. Francois)
Another MAF staffer is sleeping in the store room (credit: Zacharie H. Francois)

With violent gangs roaming the streets, commuting from home to the airport is simply too dangerous for MAF staff.

Staff restock their supplies whenever they can.

Despite the challenges, the team continues to fly essential supplies to people in need, like this cargo destined for Jacmel (credit: Zacharie H. Francois)

A catalogue of disasters

Since Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021, the government has destabilised with the cost of food and fuel escalating, sparking country-wide protests.

This was exacerbated by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake which struck the south-west of the country a month later, killing more than 2,200 people.

Last year, a violent gang blocked Haiti’s main oil terminal, preventing the delivery of much-needed fuel that was already in short supply. Most of the country depends on fuel for generators and basic services such as hospitals, banks and shops, some of which have been forced to close.

Although authorities have since regained control of the terminal, gangs continue to block major roads out of Port-au-Price.

This lorry driver set off from the capital in the middle of the night on a 10-hour journey in a bid to avoid gang interference by day. However, poor visibility, an overloaded container and soddened ill-maintained roads due to heavy rainfall, nearly had him careering off the road.

This overloaded truck nearly plunged down a precipice (credit: Lemuel Ministries)
This overloaded truck nearly plunged down a precipice (credit: Lemuel Ministries)
Locals unload the truck in a bid to set it upright (credit: Lemuel Ministries)
Locals unload the truck in a bid to set it upright (credit: Lemuel Ministries)

Several men were able to secure the truck by chaining it to a tree before unloading it and re-loading the cargo onto smaller trucks.

Demand for MAF flights still high

As if civil unrest, an earthquake, poor infrastructure and poverty were not enough to contend with, Haiti was also hit by a cholera outbreak in October.

To date, more than 33,000 people have been infected and nearly 600 have died from this preventable disease (source: Haiti’s Ministry of Health).

The increase in cases is predominantly caused by limited access to clean drinking water, but with sky-hight inflation, bottled water is a luxury few can afford.

Access to basic healthcare, which MAF helps to facilitate, is needed more than ever.

It’s clear that many Haitians and organisations supporting Haiti depend on MAF for transport during this critical time.

Demand for MAF flights has outstripped supply with MAF flying up to eight times per day delivering medical supplies, food, and personnel to remote locations.

MAF has also been flying more corpses in Haiti than ever before.

This coffin is being flown from a rural area to the city for the funeral (credit: David Carwell)
This coffin is being flown from a rural area to the city for the funeral (credit: David Carwell)

Situation under review

MAF Haiti’s Crisis Management Team are closely monitoring Haiti’s security situation on a daily basis.

Access to food, water, fuel and electricity and potential threats in remote locations are all under review.

Pilots cooking in the hangar (credit: Zacharie H. Francois)
Pilots cooking in the hangar (credit: Zacharie H. Francois)

Current living arrangements away from loved ones for three weeks at a time aren’t sustainable long term. People’s safety is paramount.

For relaxation, staff play ping pong in the hangar (credit: David Carwell)
For relaxation, staff play ping pong in the hangar (credit: David Carwell)

Please pray for the people of Haiti, peaceful elections, and the direction of MAF leadership during this challenging time.

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