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Political and economic turmoil in Haiti causes humanitarian crisis to grow

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

In Haiti, political and economic turmoil are causing a growing humanitarian crisis. Well-funded gangs are making it tough to get goods into the capital, Port-au-Prince, where most of the violence is concentrated. I spoke with WLRN's Wilkine Brutus, who's been checking in with nonprofits in Miami about the deteriorating situation.

WILKINE BRUTUS, BYLINE: The Haitian nonprofit organizations who typically serve the needs of people in South Florida say this is a major turning point for the country. It's a complete standstill in Haiti, and that obviously hurts how people communicate with loved ones and how some nonprofits send food and supplies to Haiti. Florida actually has the largest population of Haitian Americans in the U.S., and so families are especially worried about these sort of well-funded, politically affiliated gangs who control ports and other resources.

ELLIOTT: Given the large Haitian presence there in Florida, how has the state responded to the humanitarian crisis there?

BRUTUS: It's been quite rocky, to say the least. Governor Ron DeSantis, for example, floated the idea of sending possible Haitian migrants who land in Florida to Martha's Vineyard. He's also deployed more than 250 law enforcement officials to the Florida Keys for what he claimed was a possible surge of Haitian refugees which hasn't materialized. I actually spoke with Paul Christian Namphy, who is a lead organizer for Family Action Network Movement, which is a Haitian nonprofit in Miami.

PAUL CHRISTIAN NAMPHY: We are absolutely outraged by his response. We need to humanize the response for people who have already suffered immeasurable trauma - who are refugees fleeing for their lives.

ELLIOTT: So let's talk a little bit now about aid. You know, these groups that you've been speaking with have traditionally tried to send aid back to Haiti. Now, with this humanitarian crisis, are they able to get help to the Caribbean nation?

BRUTUS: I spoke with Mario Nicoleau of the nonprofit Food For The Poor here in South Florida. They've been distributing food and other supplies to Haiti for nearly 40 years. He said it's the worst disruption he's ever seen in Haiti. The airport is shut down. Seaports are overrun by well-funded gangs. Here's what Nicoleau had to say.

MARIO NICOLEAU: It's too insecure. The - bullets flying, and the ports have been pillaged at least twice so far - at least the ports in Port-au-Prince. So it'll take an eternity, and who knows when it will be able to be cleared?

ELLIOTT: What's next?

BRUTUS: Everyone is waiting for the creation of an internationally backed transitional government in Haiti. And there are a lot of ideological differences between political leaders trying to take back gang-controlled resources. But, Debbie, until then, you know, nonprofits in Miami are usually serving those in need here in South Florida and just have to wait for proper governance in Haiti.

ELLIOTT: Wilkine Brutus with WLRN in Miami. Thank you for your reporting.

BRUTUS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Wilkine Brutus
Wilkine Brutus is a multimedia journalist for WLRN, South Florida's NPR, and a member of Washington Post/Poynter Institute’s 2019 Leadership Academy. A former Digital Reporter for The Palm Beach Post, Brutus produces enterprise stories on topics surrounding people, community innovation, entrepreneurship, art, culture, and current affairs.