Media CenterCRS: Humanitarian disaster looms in Haiti

Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for CRS

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Nikki Gamer
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(443) 955- 7125


CRS experts warn that political turmoil and violent unrest has once again pushed Haiti to the brink of collapse


PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, October 17, 2019 – The current political paralysis and growing unrest in Haiti has shut down schools, hospitals, transportation, businesses and other services throughout the country, sending prices skyrocketing and raising the prospect of an imminent humanitarian disaster, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) warned today.

“There is an overwhelming sense of panic that’s growing by the day,” said Chris Bessey, CRS' country representative for Haiti. “Roads are closed. People are trapped in their homes. Children are out of school. We are on the edge of yet another humanitarian disaster if the unrest continues unabated.”

The situation in Haiti is dire and is deteriorating quickly. Farmers can’t get their crops to market. There is a widespread fuel shortage caused by fuel not coming into the country. And hospitals and schools have been forced to close. What’s more, anti-poverty programs run by CRS and other non-profits have virtually come to a halt. The political crisis is compounded by surging inflation which has driven up costs for food and other necessities.

“We are feeling the early tremors of what could erupt into catastrophe. Once the full disaster hits, a response will be complicated by lack of security, transportation and other services,” Bessey said.

While still mired in poverty, the country in recent decades has avoided the repeated coups and violent revolutions of the past. It has slowly recovered from the 2010 earthquake and in doing so has built in more resilience to future natural disasters. Literacy rates have shown significant improvements, and farmers in the south are beginning to increase productivity by innovating with crops such as cacao.

CRS, for instance, implements a large U.S. Department of Agriculture program that has helped nearly 35,000 people recover from Hurricane Matthew, including thousands of cacao farmers. CRS also has a large education, health and resiliency portfolio. All of these programs have been disrupted by the current unrest.

“As a result of countless manmade and natural disasters, Haitians have been through an enormous amount of trauma over the years. But they’re resilient. They just need the international community’s continued support,” Bessey said. “We are pleading with the American public not to give up on Haiti. Don’t let the Haitian people suffer in silence.”

With 250 staff and offices in Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes, and Jérémie, CRS is one of the largest international aid organizations operating in Haiti. CRS has been working in Haiti for 65 years, partnering with the local Catholic Church, the government of Haiti and other faith and community-based organizations to implement an array of humanitarian and development programming.


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, visit or and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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Tags: Crisis