Home Uncategorized Haiti: Longing to live again, amid trauma of displacement

Haiti: Longing to live again, amid trauma of displacement

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Displacements in this Caribbean country have reached record levels, with nearly 600,000 people forced to leave their homes this year – double the number from last year. This makes Haiti the country with the highest number of displacements due to violence.

Support from the NGO TOYA

Louise and Chantal* both received support from the Haitian NGO TOYA, a partner of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the regional branch of the World Health Organization (WHO).

People continue to flee their homes in Port-au-Prince due to gang-related violence.

© UNICEF/Ralph Tedy Erol

People continue to flee their homes in Port-au-Prince due to gang-related violence.

Louise, 47, is a single mother of five children. Currently, only one of her children, an 11-year-old, is with her, while the other four are scattered elsewhere in the country. “We were driven out by bandits; they burned our homes,” she recounts in a testimony collected by a PAHO official.

Her mother recently died due to hypertension and the stress resulting from repeated forced displacements. “My mother had to be forcibly displaced twice in a short time,” she laments.

‘I took a big step back in my life’

Chantal, 56, and a single mother of six children, shares Louise’s sufferings. Her house was also burned. “The bandits raped me and my daughter. I contracted HIV as a result. They beat me, and I lost four teeth. The father of my children is no longer able to care for them. I am now destitute. I took a big step back in my life and don’t know how to recover,” she explains.

A funeral procession passes through the Grand Cemetery in downtown Port-au-Prince.

A funeral procession passes through the Grand Cemetery in downtown Port-au-Prince.

“The insecurity took everything from me; I was half-crazy. I even thought about drinking bleach to commit suicide after the events,” she testifies.

Louise was at another displacement site before getting to Carl Brouard Square in Port-au-Prince. During this time, the TOYA Foundation helped her by providing kits with essential items and funds that allowed her to start a small business.

However, this respite was short-lived. One day, “the bandits” invaded the site at Carl Brouard Square, and once again, she lost everything. “My business, my belongings, I couldn’t take anything during the attack,” she says.

The insecurity took everything from me; I was half-crazy. I even thought about drinking bleach to commit suicide after the events. 
— Chantal

Chantal went to the TOYA Foundation’s premises, where she received psychosocial support, training sessions, and funds.

‘Life is not over’

“In the training sessions, TOYA’s psychologists taught me what life is and its importance. They showed me that life is not over for me, that I can become what I want, and that I still have value. I received considerable support from everyone at TOYA”, she emphasizes.

Currently, she lives with a relative and some of her children. Some of her offspring are in the provinces, including her teenage daughter, who was raped along with her.

“Thank God she was not infected with HIV. But she has been traumatized since. She doesn’t want to return to Port-au-Prince. She was supposed to graduate this year but stopped everything because of this incident,” Chantal recounts.

She says she has faced a lot of discrimination from her family due to her HIV-positive status. “They think I can infect them because I live under the same roof,” she states, noting that she continues to take her medication without issue.

Despite this difficult situation, she focuses on her life and how she can earn money to send to her children scattered in various places.

Women in Port-au-Prince attend a mobile clinic supported by UNFPA.

Women in Port-au-Prince attend a mobile clinic supported by UNFPA.

‘I want to see my children grow up’

For her part, Louise currently has no support because she lost her only source of income, which was her business.

“All I want is to live in peace,” she says. “Life in the sites is really difficult. The classrooms where we sleep flood every time it rains. We have to wait for the rain to stop to clean up and find a small space to rest and try to sleep.”

It’s been a long time since Louise has been able to visit some of her children whom she sent to the provinces. “I can’t go there due to the cost of living and the bandits who extort passengers on the roads,” she explains. “I’m tired of having to flee under the sound of gunfire. We are always at risk of being attacked at any moment.”

In this difficult context, Louise’s greatest goal “is to live.”

“All I want is to live,” Chantal echoes. She still suffers from hypertension “because the stress of the situation in Haiti is really unbearable.”

“But I still have to go about my business because I have mouths to feed. I want “to see my children grow up; I want to see them succeed in life,” she says.

*The names have been changed to protect their identities.



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