The aid worker in Haiti who was stranded described the city as being under attack, with people feeling fearful and confused.

The aid worker in Haiti who was stranded described the city as being under attack, with people feeling fearful and confused.

An English humanitarian worker, amongst many other foreigners trapped in Haiti due to a rebel uprising against the government, has shared their experience of feeling scared and confused while being stranded in a city under attack.

Matt Knight, the director for the Irish humanitarian aid agency Goal Global in Haiti, flew into its capital, Port-au-Prince, from Europe three days before the uprising against Prime Minister Ariel Henry began on 29 February.

“I was in Ukraine for six months during the bombing in Kyiv, and this is even more severe,” stated the 55-year-old resident of Sheffield on Monday morning, following another night of being awakened by the sound of semi-automatic gunfire.

Knight told [someone/some group] that they remain alert due to ongoing intense conflicts between security forces and gang members attempting to break into the airport. Knight admits that they struggle to sleep while hearing the sound of gunfire.

“The sound is like ‘Pop-pop-pop-pop’ followed by a loud explosion of ‘Pop-pop-pah, pop-pop-pah’ … Last night, it lasted for approximately thirty minutes. Some nights, it can continue for even longer … These noises occur almost every day,” stated Knight, whose group has been required to halt their work in Carrefour, a destitute neighborhood of Haiti’s capital.

Every day, a WhatsApp group for an NGO receives alerts and footage of the most recent attacks. A British humanitarian, overwhelmed by the organized and indiscriminate nature of the violence, expressed their fear that the conflict is creeping closer.

According to Knight, it appears that there is a plan orchestrated by Haitian gang leader Barbecue, who has united several gangs under the umbrella term “Viv Ansanm.” Their mission seems to be preventing President Ariel Henry from returning to the country. As part of this plan, they have been hindering airport operations and targeting the police and government infrastructure, with the goal of forcing Henry to resign.

However, a significant portion of the chaos appeared to stem from volatile and heavily armed young individuals with no discernible political agenda. Knight, a seasoned aid worker who was present in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak from 2014-2015, Sudan during the coup of 2021, and Ukraine last year, stated, “There were incidents of looting, plundering, and displacement of residents from their communities.”

Matt Knight at shelled sites in Kharkiv.View image in fullscreen

“In the city of Kyiv, one could easily walk around during the day. However, in this location, the situation is much less controlled, causing a higher level of fear due to its unpredictable nature. This is the most scared I have felt because of the unpredictability.” These were the words spoken on Monday as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Jamaica to participate in a summit with Caribbean leaders, addressing Haiti’s pressing political and security crisis.

The individual referred to as Knight used to work for Public Health England. They acknowledged that their own circumstances were significantly better compared to the 300,000 people who were forced to leave their homes in Haiti and were receiving assistance from the organization. Knight shared that while their own situation may be frightening, it pales in comparison to the terrifying experience of a four-year-old child who is forced to flee their home and run for safety while hearing the sound of gunshots overhead.

The United Nations issued a warning last week stating that the health system in Haiti, which was already unstable, is close to failure. The humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières reported that their trauma unit in Port-au-Prince has been swamped with patients suffering from gunshot wounds. As a result of the ongoing gang violence, it is estimated that approximately 15,000 Haitians have been displaced from their homes. Prior to this crisis, almost half of the population of 11.7 million in Haiti was experiencing severe malnutrition.

Knight’s three grown children have all urged him to go back home, stating that it is important for the world to pay attention to those individuals.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised to donate an extra $100 million to a UN-supported international security team aimed at aiding Haitian law enforcement in tackling gangs. An additional $33 million in humanitarian aid was also pledged. This boosts the total US proposed contribution to the team to $300 million.

At the moment, Knight is unable to leave due to the airport being controlled by armed gang members. While the US military is said to be transporting non-essential embassy staff out of the country via helicopter, no evacuation has been provided for aid workers.

Knight stated that he had attempted to contact the British embassy in the Dominican Republic, which is the closest to Haiti. However, he was informed that officials were unable to offer assistance due to the current advisory from the foreign office advising against all travel to Haiti because of the unpredictable security situation.

Currently, there is no means of entry or exit from Haiti. The border with the Dominican Republic is completely shut off. Even accessing the areas where boats can be launched is dangerous. We are trapped, unable to leave.