Fuel shortages and power outages bring life to a halt in Haiti

As gang violence rages in Haiti’s capital, other cities across the island nation face another major challenge: fuel and electricity shortages threaten the daily lives of millions of people.

In addition to bloody fighting in Port-au-Prince, where at least 234 people have been killed or wounded in the Cité Soleil area since early July, Haitian gangs are also obstructing the country’s three main oil terminals.

Armed groups routinely block access to facilities, cutting off fuel supplies to the country.

In Jeremy, a coastal town on the island’s southwestern tip, gas stations have been running out of fuel for months.

Residents are forced to turn to the black market, where gasoline and diesel are readily available, but at prices six times higher than government-set rates.

“Fuel can be found everywhere except gas stations,” says Yvon Janvier, a law professor.

With a shortage of legal fuel and soaring black market prices, Jeremy’s less well-off residents are forced to travel on foot.

The vast majority of energy in Haiti is produced on diesel plants, so “it’s very simple: no fuel, no electricity,” says Janvier.

One paved road

José Davilmar, administrative director of the country’s public power plant (EDH), says there are “enormous difficulties in transporting fuel to some provincial towns.”

“Just recently, three fuel boats were unable to dock due to retaliatory action by bandits in Cité Soleil.”

By controlling just two short kilometers (1.2 miles) of the national highway in Martissan, a poor suburb of Port-au-Prince, the gangs gained control over the flow of goods across half the country.

Since June 2021, armed groups have been in full control of the only paved road leading to southern Haiti.

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Reduction in hospital care

Without electricity from power plants, entire regions of the country must switch to gas generators to keep the light going.

For those who cannot afford their own generator, everyday life has become a headache.

In Jacmel, on the south coast of Haiti, artist Joseph Stevenson has to ask his neighbors who has electricity every time he needs to charge his phone.

“Sometimes I have to go downtown to recharge just a few percent,” says the artist.

“Can you imagine this in the 21st century?”

In Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second-largest city, bars and restaurants equipped with generators have been able to stay open but have reduced opening hours due to rising gas prices.

Mayor of the northern city Patrick Almonor warns that power outages have severely affected medical facilities.

“Hospitals are operating at a slower pace with reduced services because it has been almost six months since EDH provided electricity to the city,” Almonor says.

Prices have doubled

In Les Cays, the third largest city, some medical centers are open for only a few hours a day, says Dr Kinski Hyppolite.

The situation is largely due to the lack of electricity, as well as problems with the transportation of equipment and medicines from the capital, located 200 km to the north.

As elsewhere in Haiti, the southern peninsula also suffers from sky-high inflation. But while prices have risen more than 25% across the country, in the southwestern region prices of some foodstuffs have doubled since the beginning of the year.

“Even the prices of local products are rising: for example, farmers sell their lemons at a higher price in order to be able to buy imported rice,” says Ippolit.

The doctor, who considers himself lucky compared to the poorest in the country, is nevertheless forced to “restrict (his) travel because of the price of gasoline.”

Growing poverty in Haiti, exacerbated by social instability, is of great concern to the humanitarian community, according to the World Food Programme, with almost half of the country’s 11 million citizens no longer food insecure, including 1.3 million on the brink of starvation.

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