From the Field

Haiti crisis: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

A young girl looks over her mother’s shoulder and into the camera.

As of May 2024, the crisis in Haiti has reached unprecedented levels due to widespread gang violence. As many as 5.5 million people, including 3 million children, are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. The country, which was already facing political instability and a cholera epidemic, is experiencing intensified impacts like food shortages and limited access to basic services.

World Vision is deeply concerned about the escalation of violence that is affecting millions of Haitians, particularly innocent children. During this turmoil, Haitians face multiple vulnerabilities and threats to their lives and well-being.

Haiti in crisis: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

Fast facts: Haiti in crisis

  • Widespread poverty: Even before the current crisis escalated, Haiti, ranked by the World Bank as the most impoverished nation in Latin America and the Caribbean region, struggled with economic challenges that deeply impacted its people’s daily lives.
  • Food insecurity: Haiti teeters on the brink of a hunger crisis, with acute hunger affecting more than 4.3 million people, nearly half of the Haitian population, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). Additionally, 1.4 million people face emergency levels of hunger.
  • Displacement: Ongoing conflicts and natural disasters have displaced approximately 362,000 people within the country.
  • Healthcare crisis: The upheaval in late February has pushed Haiti’s health system to the brink of collapse. Violence has forced the closure of three major hospitals, while armed attacks and shortages of medicine and staff have led to scaling back or the shutdown of many health centers.
  • Gender-based violence: Women and girls bear the brunt of the escalating violence, as gang activity has further increased gender-based violence.
  • Cholera outbreak: Since the first two cases of cholera were reported in Port-au-Prince in October 2022, cholera has spread throughout Haiti, resulting in nearly 80,000 suspected cases as of January 2024.
  • Natural disasters: The August 2021 earthquake compounded the challenges already facing Haitians.

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People stand on a collapsed building after a devastating earthquake shook Haiti on August 14, 2021.
A magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck Haiti on August 14, 2021. World Vision has been working for decades to support families in lifting themselves out of poverty, so while our program areas weren’t near the southern quake-hit zones, we were able to quickly distribute life-saving food supplies and hygiene kits to affected families. We continue to support impacted families with access to food, clean water, sanitation, and housing supplies. (© 2021 World Vision)

What is the current situation in Haiti?

Haiti faces a longstanding crisis exacerbated by escalating gang violence since February 29, 2024, including clashes with police in the capital city, Port-au-Prince. Waves of violence have displaced over 15,000 people in a matter of a week. Thousands are seeking refuge with relatives and friends, with gangs now targeting residential areas.

An estimated 80% of the capital city is under the control of gangs, including the international airport, which remains closed. Looting at Haiti’s main port has depleted critical fuel, water, and food supplies to alarming levels, intensifying an already severe food insecurity crisis.

Haiti is on the brink of a hunger emergency, and thousands are attempting to cross into the neighboring Dominican Republic through unofficial routes. Vulnerable children and their families are desperate for shelter, food, water, and medical assistance. Immediate intervention is imperative to prevent further suffering and loss of life.

“The restriction on free mobility, the closure of businesses, and the difficulties in the supply of products is exacerbating hunger in a country where food insecurity and malnutrition is already chronic. Children are the most affected.” —Joao Diniz, World Vision’s regional leader for Latin America and the Caribbean 

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How long has Haiti been experiencing a crisis, and what drives it?

Haiti has faced a multidimensional crisis for decades, caused by political unrest and economic instability. The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021 exacerbated the political turmoil and led to widespread violence. The COVID-19 pandemic also hit Haiti hard, worsening economic difficulties and straining an already fragile healthcare system. Natural disasters, including the 2010 earthquake, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and the August 2021 earthquake compounded the hardships facing Haitians. Haiti has also faced repeated cholera outbreaks, with the latest 2022 outbreak continuing to spread throughout the country.

“Hundreds of thousands of children and their families live in some of the most dangerous and besieged communes. Over 362,000 desperate people are internally displaced, and hunger and life-threatening malnutrition are at a record high across the country. A shocking 2 in 3 children need humanitarian aid in Haiti.” —Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director on March 6, 2024

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An aid worker in a World Vision vest looks toward a World Food Programme helicopter waiting on the tarmac.
In partnership with the WFP, World Vision teams prepared shipments of hygiene and baby care kits in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the country in August 2021, leaving an estimated 650,000 people — including about 260,000 children — in need of life-saving aid. (© 2021 World Vision/photo by Paola Avello)

What are the challenges and risks for Haitian children?

A humanitarian crisis delivers the heaviest blow to the most vulnerable especially children. In Haiti, children are facing challenging conditions:

  • Exposure to violence: Witnessing or experiencing violence firsthand can have long-lasting physical, social, and psychological effects.
  • Forced recruitment into gangs: Exposing them to the possibility of greater levels of violence and exploitation.
  • Malnutrition and food insecurity: Crisis-induced food shortages and rising prices are putting children at risk of severe malnutrition and its lasting impacts.
  • Lack of protection: Displacement and migration caused by the current volatile situation can separate children from their families and caregivers, putting them at higher risk of abuse.
  • Limited access to healthcare: Closed hospitals and disrupted health services leave many children without access to essential care and vaccinations.
  • Education disruptions: School closures due to security concerns put children at risk of setbacks or even complete loss of education.

Even before the recent escalation of violence, the World Bank outlined the immediate risks and complex challenges Haitian children experience in their lives:

  • Over 20% of children may not reach their full physical and intellectual potential due to insufficient nutrition and healthcare, which impacts cognitive and physical growth.
  • Only 78 out of 100 teenagers are expected to reach age 60, highlighting serious health and safety issues.
  • Children in Haiti are estimated to achieve just 45% of their potential due to limited access to quality education and healthcare, which jeopardizes their future job prospects.

“Since the beginning of the crisis, more than 1,000 schools have been closed because of the violence and because some schools are being used to house displaced people. This means that more than a half a million children are not able to go to school. We are living in a country where 70% of the population is young. And when you are not offering any opportunity to the youth and then they are being exposed to violence, the main exit is mostly either migration or [a turn] to gang activities. We need to give young people opportunities.” —Lesly Michaud, program director in Haiti

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A girl wearing a turquoise shirt smiles at the camera and claps while other children play with their backs turned.
Even before the recent spike in violence, many Haitians were already struggling, particularly after the August 2021 earthquake. As Haitians worked to rebuild after the quake, World Vision supported children impacted by the disaster by providing safe places for them to play and learn. “I come to this World Vision club to play with other children,” said Witchina (shown above at age 11). “Here, we know how to jump rope, play soccer, and compete for the title of champion.” (© 2022 World Vision/photo by Edson Lubin)

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How is World Vision supporting vulnerable Haitian communities today?

World Vision is calling for immediate support to aid vulnerable Haitians. A secure humanitarian corridor must be established to ensure essential services like healthcare, food, and water are accessible to impacted children and families.

Despite the unpredictable circumstances, we continue to support and safeguard vulnerable children and families. With over 45 years of dedication to Haiti, World Vision remains committed to serving those in need, and our longstanding operations in our area programs in the country persist.

We’re helping communities by delivering essential humanitarian aid, including food, clean water, and psychosocial support. Our cash assistance and psychosocial programs are also reaching survivors of gender-based violence. However, the scale of the crisis demands expanded operations.

World Vision is advocating for enhanced cross-border operations to safeguard children, women, and families fleeing violence to ensure they receive dignified treatment and protection.

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How many people in Haiti has World Vision supported?

As part of World Vision’s response to the current crisis, as of March 2024:

  • 9,987 people have been supported with access to clean water.
  • 15,526 people participated in hygiene promotion programs and were supported with supplies.
  • 21,198 children have received nourishing school meals, contributing to their overall well-being and education.
  • 315 households have been equipped with essential agricultural necessities, including livestock, seeds, tools, and more, fostering sustainable livelihoods.
  • 222,959 people have been reached with preventative messages focused on protection against sexual exploitation and abuse, and positive coping strategies.
  • 9,840 people have been supported through primary healthcare services.

How can I make a difference and support Haitian children and families?

You can make an impact amid the crisis in Haiti and other disasters worldwide.

  • Pray: Join us in praying for all those affected by the crisis in Haiti.

Merciful God, we ask You to orchestrate an end to the crisis afflicting the people of Haiti. Father, we pray for the protection of children, women, and men facing unimaginable levels of violence. Please give all those who are hungry enough food to keep them nourished. We ask in Your name that the people of Haiti will find peace, hope, healing, and restoration for their lives and nation.

  • Give: Your gift will help deliver crucial aid to vulnerable children and families affected by emergencies like the crisis in Haiti.
  • Sponsor a child: Help equip a child, their family, and community for a brighter future. Sponsorship helps meet urgent needs today — and supports lasting empowerment through physical and spiritual resources.

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Haitian girls in school uniforms and wearing blue hair ribbons laugh and clap joyfully.
World Vision has been working to support Haitian children and families affected by the 2021 earthquake, including rebuilding schools and providing educational opportunities. With access to quality education, children like Louisina, Sophie, and Jilienne (shown above at ages 9, 13, and 11) can become lifelong learners with the tools to help transform their communities — and a better chance to experience life in all its fullness. Their smiles reflect their joy for the opportunity to learn and grow. (© 2022 World Vision/photo by Guy F. Vital-Herne)

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