Children in Port-au-Prince are falling asleep to the sound of gunfire, waking to the news of closed schools and trying to ignore the pain of hunger as crisis unfolds around them.

In this blog, learn more about what is happening in Haiti, how it is impacting children and how Compassion is responding to the needs of children in crisis.

What is happening in Haiti?

What led to this crisis?

How is this crisis impacting children?

How are Compassion’s church partners responding?

How can I help children in Haiti?

A girl looks to the side. She has blue bows in her braided hair.

What is happening in Haiti?

Today, almost 100 gangs are fighting for territory in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, and the United Nations believes 80 per cent is under gang rule. Daily looting, violence, kidnappings, road blockades and killings have paralyzed the city, closing airports, shipping ports and hospitals.

The gangs are heavily armed with illegal weapons and far outnumber the country’s police force—some 9,000 active-duty officers in a country of 11 million people. In March 2024, gang violence surged to oust Prime Minister Ariel Henry from power. Haiti’s two main prisons were raided, leading to the escape of about 4,000 prisoners.

Many citizens are now living under self-imposed lockdowns to protect their families. Others have fled their homes altogether. Nearly 200,000 people, half of them children, are displaced across Haiti.

“Many people in high-risk areas are forced to leave their homes. Moving around the capital city has become very dangerous. Fuel is hard to find. Therefore, we have to stay home as much as possible,” says Jonathan, Compassion Haiti video producer.

A girl in a red dress stands looking into the camera. She has beads in her braided hair.

What led to the current crisis in Haiti?

Decades of political instability, extreme poverty, failed international interventions and environmental disasters have created conditions for gangs to thrive in Haiti. Today, there are believed to be 200 armed gangs in the country, half of which operate in Port-au-Prince.

The current crisis has been building since 2021, when Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated. His death left a power vacuum that local gangs quickly tried to fill. At the time, Prime Minister Ariel Henry assumed power.

Violent protests erupted after planned elections to select the next leader failed to go ahead, leaving Henry in power. In response, Henry announced he would step down once a transitional council was established to choose an interim prime minister.

However, the announcement has done little to lessen the gangs’ activity. They threaten to oppose any outside intervention in Haiti—including a UN-backed effort of Kenyan peacekeepers to support national police.

In the aftermath, gang violence has surged and overwhelmed the country.

Timeline: Crisis in Haiti

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake reduces much of Port-au-Prince to ruins, killing more than 200,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. Afterwards, a cholera outbreak—among the worst in modern history—kills up to 10,000 people. In the chaos, dozens of gangs become active.

  • 2016: Hurricane Matthew hits.

Haiti’s strongest storm in decades leaves 200,000 families without a home, destroys crops just before the harvest and worsens the cholera epidemic.

  • 2021: President Jovenel Moïse is assassinated.

Against a backdrop of income loss and food insecurity caused by COVID-19 lockdowns, President Jovenel Moïse is shot by armed men after criticisms of holding onto power after his term expires.

Before his assassination, Moïse appoints Ariel Henry as the next prime minister. Henry, not yet sworn in, begins serving as an unelected leader. Gang violence begins to escalate.

  • 2021: Haiti experiences another major earthquake.

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake strikes the southwestern part of Haiti on August 14, 2021. This disaster resulted in over 2,200 deaths and 12,300 injuries as well as major infrastructure damage.

  • January 2023: Planned elections don’t take place.

The government does not hold elections, citing gang violence as the reason. Haiti is left without a single elected government leader.

  • March 2024: Gang violence surges.

Violence escalates as gangs try to oust Henry from power. Gangs attack police and try to seize control of the country’s main international airport.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Henry remains trapped outside Haiti after a trip to Kenya.

Henry announces he will step down once a transition council and temporary replacement are appointed.

A young boy stands in an orange shirt and looks into the camera.

How is this crisis affecting Haitian children?

Children are hungry.

The situation is strangling the country’s economy, driving unemployment and resulting in Haiti’s worst food crisis in history. Almost half the population doesn’t have enough food to eat.

In gang-controlled urban areas, many households eat just one meal per day. Outside the capital, gang violence is increasing in the Department of Artibonite, disrupting the country’s ability to produce its own food.

Meanwhile, gang-run checkpoints and blockades prevent food from getting to households. “Most of the food we eat in Haiti is imported,” explains Compassion Haiti video producer Jonathan. “Boats and planes usually land in the capital. With the road blockades, it’s difficult to have trucks deliver food to the south.”

Inflation has risen to almost 50 percent, causing the price of what food is available to skyrocket. “Even if families had any kind of savings, it’s all been used on food,” says Abbel Joseph, senior manager for Compassion Haiti. “They have nothing left.”

Children’s health is at risk.

Nearly half of the approximately 50 hospitals in Port-au-Prince are in areas under gang control or influence. This places medical staff and patients at risk, and many health facilities have closed due to safety concerns.

Restricted access to health services, safe water and sanitation poses a lethal threat to malnourished children, whose bodies will struggle to fight off bacteria and sickness. With hunger rapidly escalating, the UN expects at least 115,000 children to suffer from life-threatening malnutrition.

Children are out of school.

Since the violence has escalated in recent weeks, many schools have closed to protect children. UNICEF reports kids have lost an average of 1.5 school days per week since January 2023.

Gangs also loot school equipment, taking items like desks, laptops, solar panels and precious ingredients used for school meals. All of this is depriving thousands of children of their fundamental right to education.

Children are in danger.

According to UNICEF, hundreds of children have been hit or injured by gunfire in 2023, and sexual violence is also escalating. Meanwhile, children who have been displaced from their homes are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Children need the local church’s support now more than ever.

Compassion is deeply committed to child protection. It’s exactly why we work with the local church—to ensure that there are people on the ground making sure that every child in the program is known, loved, and accounted for. While responses across the country will look different for each child development centre, our staff and local partners are making every effort to support children and their families who may be affected by the current violence.

“Church partners continue to do what they can to serve and protect children in their communities,” says Jonathan. “Our top priority remains the safety of both children and staff.”

Give to Haiti Crisis Response

A girl stands in a patterned dress. She has braids with white beads.

How are Compassion’s church partners responding during this crisis?

Amid Haiti’s challenges, the support of the local church remains constant. Compassion’s church partners have stood beside families through earthquakes, hurricanes, political turmoil and the pandemic.

“It’s important to remember that Compassion has been working in Haiti since 1968,” says Jonathan. Our local church partners were there before this crisis, will be there during and will remain long after the emergency has ended.

Compassion continues to walk alongside local churches impacted by the instability across the country. To protect children, families, staff and volunteers, some of our church partners in areas with high levels of gang violence have temporarily paused meeting at their child development centres. However, children continue to receive support.

Care includes:

  • Food kits or cash transfers and long-term food security support like farming resources or small business support
  • Hygiene kits
  • Health care
  • In-home or virtual communication with families for child protection and family well-being
  • In-home or virtual support for children’s education
  • Mental health, emotional or spiritual support

With so many people struggling to survive, families supported by Compassion often share what they receive with others.

“Because of the love of Christ that they’ve encountered through the ministry,” says Abbel Joseph, “they take from what they receive and share it with their neighbour.”

A young boy stands looking into the camera wearing a white t-shirt that reads "Team Victory."

How can I help children in Haiti?


Edouard Lassegue, Compassion International’s Regional Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, has asked for specific prayer for the following points.

  • Pray for the protection of children, youth, families, volunteers and staff who are affected by the violence.
  • Pray for courage and safety for churches, pastors, church leaders and volunteers.
  • Pray for Compassion staff and volunteers who are under immense pressure as they lead their communities during this time.
  • Pray for a solution to the crisis and an end to the violence.
  • Pray for leadership to stand up and provide direction and stability to Haiti.


Our local church partners remain present for children in Haiti, prioritizing their safety and well-being. Because of the crisis, the country is currently facing widespread disruptions to critical resources such as food, clean water and shelter. You can come alongside our local church partners to ensure that children and families have access to these essential resources when they are needed most.

“Even in these hard times we are seeing churches in Haiti doing amazing work,” says Jonathan, “and we know it’s all thanks to God.”

You can make a difference for a child in crisis.

Give to Haiti Crisis Response


If you sponsor a child in Haiti, please know we will be in touch with you if and when there are relevant updates available to share about the child you sponsor. Compassion is closely monitoring the situation in Haiti and thanks to your support, our local partners are able to be present and responsive to the dynamic and critical needs of children and youth affected by this crisis. In times like these, your sustained support through sponsorship is more important than ever. Thank you.


Words by Zoe Noakes. Photos by Jonathan D Clement.

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