Shelters for homeless children in Port-au-Prince are running empty due to the gangs, who are recruiting minors to participate in the urban war that has terrorized the Haitian capital for a month.
Since the escalation of the sociopolitical and economic crisis marked by the multiplication of armed groups, kidnappings and massacresthere are few children on the streets of the metropolitan area of the Haitian capital.
“The soldiers of the armed groups they come to recruit us at night“, says a minor who swarms through the central Champ de Mars square, near the National Palace and where there have always been many street children.
A reception center for these minors was inaugurated in that area in 2013, the first of its kind within a rehabilitation program, but now it is practically empty and abandoned.
Children rest inside a Catholic church home in Port-au-Prince. Photo: EFE
“There are about 48 people here. They spend the day somewhere else and come every night to sleep,” says one of the adults who sleeps in the place designed to accommodate up to 400 people.
This man claims that the armed gangs Ti Lapli, Bougoy and 100 Jours They are among those who recruit minors in this area.
According to sociologist Djems Olivier, from the Haitian State University, The phenomen is not newsince since the year 2000 the armed groups have used the boys.
“These are children who are used as human shields or as explorers (…) The level of criminality is higher in a child soldier than in an adult soldier,” he considered.
A street boy bathes in a public square near the National Palace. Photo: EFE
Olivier points out that “children are less and less present on the streets”, to add that this absence is not to join other shelters, much less to be helped by NGOs or the Ministry of Social Affairs.
a vanished hope
Very few children in the courtyard, young people guarding the entrance, voodoo music, cigarettes and drugs coming and going. In the back, men and women bathe naked. The patio offers the image of an abandoned space where grass is everywhere.
That is the reality today of the reception center for street children that opened its doors nine years ago and is now in a deplorable situation.
A child uses drugs in an abandoned shelter. Photo: EFE
The dormitories have been converted into public toilets with a repulsive smell, there is rubbish of all kinds on the floor and there is no electricity.
The area is under the control of G9 Fanmi e Alye, one of the most powerful armed gangs in Haiti, led by former police officer Jimmy Cherizier, nicknamed Barbecue.
“The director began to waste materials, the rest of us did the rest,” confesses a 20-year-old who grew up in the shelter.
Extreme gang violence
In mid-May, the UN confirmed that there are reports of the recruitment of child soldiers who participated in the wave of violence unleashed on April 24.
He also stated that, among the acts of extreme violence recorded in the last month, there have been numerous child murders suspected of being informants for rival gangs.
A boy walks through an abandoned Haitian state-funded shelter for street children. Photo: EFE
The gangs also reportedly use acts of sexual violence, including the gang rape of children up to 10 years, to terrorize and intimidate local populations living in areas controlled by rival gangs.
Between April 24 and May 16, at least 92 civilians and 96 suspected gang members were killed in coordinated armed attacks in Port-au-Prince, according to UN estimates.
Another 113 people were injured and 12 were reported missing, but the real number of people killed could be much higher.
Milo Milfort, EFE