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Haiti Humanitarian Crisis

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Haiti is seeing growing rates of hunger and malnutrition amid an unprecedented descent into violence and growing insecurity.

Weeks of gang violence through all corridors of Haiti since Feb. 29, 2024, has particularly affected communities in and around the capital, Port-au-Prince. Heightened insecurity has also further compromised the humanitarian space and forced some organizations to operate under precarious security conditions.

Given the heightened violence and emergency, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has been releasing situation reports in collaboration with humanitarian partners every two days.

Roughly 5.5 million people in Haiti, about half the population, were already in desperate need of humanitarian aid. The 2024 Humanitarian Response Plan released in late February requires $674 million to reach 3.6 million people and currently stands at just 6.5% funded. The violence and insecurity will only exacerbate pre-existing needs and funding.

(Photo: In Haiti, 5.5 million people require humanitarian aid, the crisis has worsened significantly in recent weeks, March 2024. Photo credit: US Department of State via X)

Since the assassination of former President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, Haiti has faced increased levels of gang violence.

A lengthy delay to elections led to mass protests calling for Acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s removal since early February. This surge in violence took a new form on Feb. 29 when gang leader Jimmy Chérizier joined forces with other gangs to form a coalition and overthrow Henry. Armed gangs stormed prisons, leading thousands of prisoners to flee, and coordinated gang attacks across the capital led Haitian officials to declare a state of emergency and impose a nighttime curfew.

In a video message from Puerto Rico, Prime Minister Henry announced his resignation and the creation of a transitional presidential council to replace the government. The resignation has yet to go into effect, and no timeline for the transition has been released. Chérizier has warned top politicians against joining the transition council.

Meanwhile, violence has continued amid widespread reports of sexual violence, kidnapping and killings. Millions have been caught in the storm of politics and violence, forcing many to face hunger, displacement and unmet health care needs.

Key facts
  • Haiti has one of the world’s most severe food crises, with almost 1.4 million Haitians tipping into starvation. According to Boby Sander, country director at Food for the Hungry, food prices have doubled.
  • More than half of medical facilities in the capital and rural Artibonite department have closed or reduced capacity due to lack of supplies and patient access. Since the surge in violence, hospitals have been looted while others closed, causing significant disruptions in the health sector.
  • In Port-au-Prince, where gang violence and insecurity have been the worst, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported 86,040 internally displaced people (IDP) between March 9 and March 15. Food was reportedly a top priority at 93% of IDP sites, followed by water and health. Since the beginning of 2024, Haiti has seen an uptick in the number of displaced people to over 362,000.
  • Gang control of transportation routes such as ports and the international airport has hindered humanitarian access to vulnerable populations. In 2023, a total of 893 humanitarian access incidents were reported due to violence between police and gangs.

Haitians are experiencing a hunger crisis, made worse by the recent violence.

In September 2023, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) projected that around 4.4 million people will experience acute food insecurity until June 2024. This includes 1.4 million people classified in the emergency level of food insecurity. Out of the 32 areas analyzed, four of the five areas classified under emergency levels of food insecurity are outside Port-au-Prince.

With ports and airports closed, including the land border with the Dominican Republic, hunger is primed to get much worse. Almost 1.4 million people are on the brink of famine and starvation.

Food and essential supplies in Port-au-Prince are projected to run out within the next two weeks, as of March 20, according to the CEO of Hospital Albert Schweitzer, one of Haiti’s most important hospitals.


In their latest displacement monitor, IOM reported that almost 17,000 people left Port-au-Prince to seek refuge in the provinces between March 8 and March 14. Since the start of the year, more than 35,000 people have fled their homes, sheltering in schools, churches and abandoned buildings, such as cinema halls.

People have created makeshift camps in and around Port-au-Prince. IOM has identified 84 total active sites, with 25 found to be very dense and crowded. A total of 86,040 people are hosted across the active sites.

Amid the violence in Haiti, reports of Haitians fleeing to the U.S. have been coming out. Unfortunately, the U.S. has continued to send fleeing Haitian refugees back to the country. On March 14, the U.S. Coast Guard stopped 65 Haitians by boat and sent them back to Haiti.

The Dominican Republic has closed its land border with Haiti since the recent surge in violence. Deportations to Haiti have continued despite the dangerous conditions.


The health sector, already weak, has been significantly impacted since Feb. 29. More than half of the medical facilities in Port-au-Prince are closed or not operating.

Hospitals run by humanitarian groups and churches are closing one by one due to low supply and access to resources. Blood supplies are low, while fuel to run generators is difficult to maintain due to transportation issues. Gangs have also looted and vandalized many medical facilities.

According to the latest UNOCHA report, between March 10 and March 17, hospitals and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) received 188 patients. Meanwhile, the State University Hospital has remained closed since Feb. 29.

Within IDP sites, almost 37,000 people have been receiving support in hygiene and sensitization activities. The World Health Organization, in partnership with the Pan-American Health Organization, has distributed water, sanitation and hygiene supplies across 23 IDP sites.

Humanitarian actors continue to provide health care assistance. MSF recently increased capacity at one of its hospitals; however, it cannot fly in more doctors due to airport closure.

The situation is particularly dire for pregnant women. About 3,000 are expected to give birth in Port-au-Prince in the next month.

In addition to responding to immediate humanitarian needs, funding and engagements must also be directed in a way that contributes to long-term stability and durability by addressing the root causes of the crisis. Cadre de Liaison Inter-Organization, an alliance of 80 national and international nongovernmental organizations in Haiti, called upon international responses to strengthen coordination and localization.

As aid is desperately needed, Haitian residents and their advocates call upon humanitarian aid to support the works of local grassroots groups already helping civilians every day.

Humanitarian access and protection

One of the biggest impediments to reaching communities and distributing aid is the lack of access for humanitarian organizations. Gang autonomy and control of Port-au-Prince and the Artibonite departments have significantly impacted humanitarian aid operations.

In addition to hampering humanitarian access, the violence and looting of humanitarian agencies’ supplies have led to evacuations.

This will be an ongoing critical need as insecurity heightens.

Food assistance

Over 4 million Haitians require food aid, sometimes eating only once a day.

The few aid organizations that were able to restart operations after Feb. 29 have been unable to reach many communities due to roadblocks or low funding and supplies.

Due to insufficient funding, WFP Executive Director McCain has announced their hot meals operation may stop in two weeks. Donors have been encouraged to tackle the rising need of hunger.

Outside of Port-au-Prince, Mercy Corps has been providing emergency cash assistance and operating in rural departments by buying from local providers and distributing seeds for the coming planting season. The organization, however, fears the lack of cash will hinder its’ efforts due to transportation issues and gang control of roads and airports.


Given roadblocks and gang control of many transportation routes, people risk their lives by fleeing their homes in search of a safer haven.

Many Haitians report seeing corpses lying on the road and unbearable stenches. Gangs control over 95% of the capital now.

In IDP camps, food security and health are top priorities; however, many organizations have been unable to reach some sites due to security reasons. Continued humanitarian access is vital to reach vulnerable populations in formal and informal IDP camps.


The health care system in Haiti was already collapsing before the current violence.

Haiti is one of five countries in the Americas to face severe health care staff shortages, including doctors, nurses and midwives. The country has .65 doctors and nurses per 1,000 people, which falls well below the WHO recommendation of 4.45 doctors and nurses per 1,000 people.

In the current state of violence, many residents, including health care staff, have fled in search of refuge outside of Port-au-Prince.

In addition to the dire need for medical staff, hospitals and medical facilities also need fuel to generate power for hospitals and medical supplies. Once again, access impediments and violence targeting hospital supplies and staff are major obstacles to providing care to the wounded.

In early March, WFP reported that two dozen trucks carrying vital equipment, medical supplies and food were stuck at the capital’s port. Hospital workers have also been kidnapped on their way to work, raising alarms within the sector.

Health supplies, assistance and staff are critical ongoing needs in Haiti.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy has a Global Recovery Fund that provides donors with an efficient, flexible solution to support recovery efforts for people affected by sudden and slow-onset disasters or protracted humanitarian emergencies worldwide.

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Philanthropic contributions

If you would like to make a donation to the CDP Global Recovery Fund, need help with your disaster-giving strategy or want to share how you’re responding to this disaster, please contact development.

(Photo: United States Marines deliver cases of food in support of Joint Task Force-Haiti for a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Aug. 27, 2021. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caleb Stelter)

Recovery updates

If you are a responding NGO, please send updates on how you are working in this crisis to Tanya Gulliver-Garcia. 

We welcome the republication of our content. Please credit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Philanthropic and government support

CDP has made several grants through various funds to support disaster and crisis response and recovery in Haiti, including:

  • Through its Haiti Earthquake Recovery Fund, CDP awarded $505,000 to the Haitian Development Institute (HDI) in 2023 to work with community organizations in earthquake-affected regions and support efforts to build resilience through microgrants, capacity strengthening and disaster preparedness.
  • In 2022, CDP awarded a $250,000 grant from the COVID-19 Response Fund to Partners In Health (PIH), in collaboration with partner organization Zanmi Lasante (ZL), to pilot a new Test and Treat approach in Haiti (targeting a catchment population of 600,000) and establish a flexible and replicable primary care model for growth in rapid testing and corresponding outpatient treatment for COVID-19 that can reduce transmission, hospitalization, and death in Haiti.
  • CDP grantee partner AVSI received a $159,846 grant to mitigate the harmful effects of the devastating 2021 earthquake on 800 children by providing physical and psychosocial protection and promoting child development through informal education in eight child-friendly spaces.
  • Action Against Hunger received $450,000 in 2022 to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable communities in the earthquake-affected South department in Haiti by improving access to basic health, WASH and nutrition services for 104,560 people.

The European Commission has allocated $21.7 million USD (20 million euros) to Haiti. The funding aims to address survival needs, strengthen the capacity of communities to respond to the crisis and improve coordination of humanitarian actors.

The U.S. government committed $33 million USD and an additional $25 million in humanitarian assistance. The initial $33 million will support WFP, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and nongovernmental partners to provide in-kind food assistance and health services, among other humanitarian activities. The U.S. remains the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance to Haiti.

On March 14, the United Nations announced the creation of an air corridor between Haiti and the Dominican Republic to ensure resources get into the country. This announcement came through the UN Integrated Office in Haiti, which said that in addition to the transport of aid, the air corridor would ensure the safe relocation of staff both in and out of the country.

More ways to help

As with most disasters and emergencies, cash donations are recommended by disaster experts as they allow for on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the most significant area of need, support local economic recovery and ensure material donations do not detract from disaster recovery needs.

Donors can help in the following ways:

  • Prioritize investments in local organizations. Local humanitarian leaders and organizations play a vital role in providing immediate relief and setting the course for long-term equitable recovery in communities after a disaster or throughout a complex humanitarian crisis. However, these leaders and organizations are mostly under-resourced and underfunded. Grant to locally-led entities as much as possible.
  • Provide unrestricted core funding for vetted humanitarian NGO partners that support the HRP.This is an efficient way to ensure the best use of resources in a coordinated manner. Funding the NGOs that have contributed to the HRP ensures that resources are directed to support the plan and use humanitarian partners’ best knowledge.
  • Recognize there are places and ways that private philanthropy can help that other donors may not. Private funders can support nimble and innovative solutions that leverage or augment the larger humanitarian system response, either filling gaps or modeling change that, once tested and proven, can be taken to scale within the broader humanitarian response structure. Philanthropy can also provide sustainable funding to national and local organizations that support needed operational costs.
  • Understand that recovery is possible in protracted and complex crisis settings. Even while focusing on immediate needs, remember that there are early and long-term recovery needs, too. We know that people who have been affected by shocks in complex humanitarian contexts can recover, improve their situation and build their resilience to withstand future shocks without waiting until the crisis is over, which may take years. Recovery is possible, and funding will be needed for recovery and resilience efforts alongside humanitarian funding. Recovery will take a long time, and funding will be needed now and throughout.


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Complex Humanitarian Emergencies

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies

CHEs involve an acute emergency layered over ongoing instability. Multiple scenarios can cause CHEs, like the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, the man-made political crisis in Venezuela, or the public health crisis in Congo.

Internally Displaced People

Internally Displaced People

Internally displaced persons are those who have been forced to flee their homes, in particular as a result of armed conflict, generalized violence, violations of human rights or disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized border.



It is commonly acknowledged that all disasters start and end locally. Though there is no single definition, localization is a process of recognizing, respecting and strengthening the leadership by local authorities and the capacity of local civil society in humanitarian action to better address the needs of affected populations and to prepare for future humanitarian responses.