Haiti’s humanitarian crisis has resulted from a political and economic implosion, compounded by natural shocks, but with consequences similar to major armed conflicts – including severe constraints to humanitarian access. The collapse of law and order after the assassination of the president in 2021, and a wave of violence perpetrated by armed criminal gangs, has displaced over 100,000 people from their homes and contributed to the breakdown of basic social services. These developments contributed to a resurgence of cholera on the island, which to date has taken hundreds of lives, many of them children. Although over 100 humanitarian groups are present in Haiti, the threat of violence prevents them from responding in the places and at the level required to meet the needs.
A survey of affected people and interviews with humanitarian practitioners in Haiti revealed that:
- aid has only reached a small fraction of people who say they need it, mostly in the form of food and household items
- according to people surveyed, the aid received mostly did not reach where it was most needed and did not cover priority needs
- humanitarian presence and access issues were obscure to many affected people, who lacked information on what aid was available and what was preventing it from getting to where it is needed.
A UN-led scale-up of humanitarian assistance began in April 2023, introducing a new collective strategy and joint initiative to expand access – a promising development with the potential to change the trajectory in Haiti. While the political and protection crisis is well beyond the scope of humanitarians to mediate, recent e!orts suggest that humanitarian access can be meaningfully improved through assertive negotiation e!orts that are backed up by results in the form of aid delivered, and by working closely with the NGO sector – particularly local organisations that have been able to maintain access through active acceptance measures at the community level and the willingness to negotiate with all power holders.