Jul 3, 2023, 8:16am EDT
North America

What it means: UN chief calls for urgent international aid for Haiti

REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol

Sign up for Semafor Flagship: The daily global news briefing you can trust. Read it now.

Title icon

The News

Haiti has received less than a quarter of the humanitarian aid it needs, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on a visit to Port-au-Prince, urging greater global support for the gang-ravaged nation.

More than 5 million people — almost half of the country’s population — are in need of humanitarian assistance, but just 23% of the $720 million in aid the U.N. seeks has been pledged.

We’ve curated three expert views on what this means for Haiti.

Title icon


  • The international community’s focus on Haiti’s security situation has crowded out the conversation on how to deliver basic aid to Haitians, Sophie Orr, Americas regional director for the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Miami Herald. Nearly half of the population don’t have access to drinking water, while schools and medical clinics remain shut. “Haiti’s profound humanitarian needs are alarming and on the scale of those my organization sees in armed conflicts around the world,” Orr wrote.
  • A deadly vigilante movement dubbed “bwa kale” has grown in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince as civilians attempt to fill the law enforcement vacuum that underfunded police forces have created. The movement has resulted in a sharp drop in kidnappings and murders in neighborhoods where people were afraid of leaving their homes, The New York Times reported. “I support vigilance groups, but I don’t like the way they do it,” a street seller in Haiti said.
  • Associates of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, had planned a secret trip to Haiti as late as February, The Wall Street Journal reported, to offer their services to the government to win back control of the capital. The U.N. has estimated that gangs control 80% of the country’s cities.
Title icon

Know More

Haiti has suffered a string of crises in recent years, including the assassination of its president in 2021, resulting in instability that gangs have capitalized on to take control of swathes of the country.

In a huge show of force, late last year gangs took control of the country’s largest oil terminal, bringing the economy to a standstill.

The economic slowdown — Haiti’s GDP has fallen each of the past four years — has pushed more than 70,000 to flee this year alone.

The U.N. has called for an international military intervention, but despite interest in contributing, no country has agreed to lead a deployment, with some wary of supporting the unelected government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.