Narcisse heartbroken about spiraling chaos, despair in Haiti

Haitian-born New York City Council Member, Mercedes Narcisse at a recent City Council hearing at City Hall, Manhattan.
Photo courtesy NYC Council

Haitian-born, New York City Council Member Mercedes Narcisse legislator said on Wednesday that she was heartbroken about the spiraling chaos and despair in her native country.

“It is truly heartbreaking to watch from afar as my beloved Haiti continues to spiral into chaos and despair,” Narcisse, who represents the 46th Council District in Brooklyn, told Caribbean Life exclusively.

“Being born and raised in Haiti, I know first-hand the beauty and endless possibilities that exist in the nation,” added Narcisse, a registered nurse by training, who serves as chair of the New York City Council’s Committee on Hospitals, and serves on the Committees on Health, Education, Parks and Recreation, Transportation and Infrastructure, Criminal Justice and the Subcommittee on COVID Recovery and Resiliency.

“The recent news of a mass prison break and increased gang violence underscores the urgent need for a well-managed global response to help rebuild and revitalize Haiti once and for all, allowing it to reach its full potential and fulfill the dreams of its resilient and courageous people,” continued Narcisse, who was born in Saint Marc, Haiti and migrated to the United States as a teenager, settling in Brooklyn.

She said while her influence in the Haiti crisis is “limited”, she stands “ready to assist in any meaningful and appropriate manner to support the people of Haiti.

“I remind everyone of the Haitian proverb ‘men anpil, chay pa lou,’ which translates to ‘with many hands the work is light’”, said Narcisse, whose Brooklyn district includes the neighborhoods of Bergen Beach, Canarsie, Flatlands, Georgetown, Gerritsen Beach, Marine Park, Mill Basin, Mill Island and Sheepshead Bay.

“I hope the international community heeds these words and unites to offer well-intentioned support and much-needed resources to help address the deeply-rooted causes of the crisis, and help pave the way for a more promising future for the Haitian people,” she added.

Amid a mass prison breakout, expanding gang violence and rising hunger, the United Nations human rights chief on Wednesday urged the international community to act “swiftly and decisively to prevent the Caribbean country’s further descent into chaos”.

Ahead of an expected closed-door Security Council meeting, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, called for the urgent deployment, with no further delay, of the Council-mandated multinational security support mission in Haiti.

“The reality is that, in the current context, there is no realistic alternative available to protect lives,” the High Commissioner said. “We are simply running out of time.”

Last weekend’s mass prison breakout has been described by Haitian officials as a lethal threat to national security, Türk said.

The UN said more than 4,500 inmates are now known to have escaped, among them prominent gang members, as well as those arrested in connection with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

The break followed coordinated gang action against national institutions, with the stated aim of bringing down the Haitian Government, the UN said.

“This situation is beyond untenable for the people of Haiti,” said Türk, noting that, since the beginning of the year, 1,193 people have been killed and 692 others injured by gang violence.

In addition, he said more than 313,000 people are currently internally displaced, and that a range of public services are crumbling.

“The health system is on the brink of collapse,” Türk warned. “Hospitals often do not have the capacity to treat those arriving with gunshots wounds.”

At the same time, he said, schools and business are closed, and children are increasingly being used by gangs, he further cautioned.

Economic activity is “asphyxiated as gangs impose restrictions on people’s movements”, he said.

Echoing those concerns, some humanitarian organizations drew attention on Tuesday to the impact of the violence on hospitals, health centers and schools in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and some other towns, according to the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA.

Since Feb. 29, violence caused by armed gangs in the capital has led to the displacement of thousands of civilians and made access to basic social services extremely difficult, further exacerbating an already precarious daily life, said Ulrika Richardson, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti.

“This violence cannot continue; it must stop,” she declared, adding that more than 15,000 people, the majority of whom were already displaced, have been displaced again in recent days.

Richardson said humanitarian actors have begun to deliver emergency aid, but added that the persistence and expansion of the violence has severely disrupted operations.

“Thousands of people now find themselves unprotected, unsafe and exposed to all types of risks,” she stressed, emphasizing that displaced people and vulnerable populations need emergency aid and safe, protected spaces.

“Haiti is facing a complex humanitarian and protection crisis; every time violence breaks out, thousands of people fall into precarious situations and need emergency aid,” Richardson said. “Humanitarian organizations need unhindered access to the most vulnerable populations.

“Beyond humanitarian aid, Haiti needs greater international solidarity at this crucial time,” she added.

At a press briefing at UN Headquarters on Wednesday, Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said “every hour gets worse for Haiti.”

Reports indicate that a gang leader is threatening to launch a civil war if Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry does not resign.

Dujarric said the UN will continue to follow the situation closely.