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Some MCC workers leave Haiti as violence escalates

10.28. 2019 Written By: Tim Huber, Mennonite World Review 623 Times read

Violent protests and political turmoil in Haiti prompted several Mennonite Central Committee workers to leave the country in October as the unrest interrupts work and causes safety concerns.

MCC representative Rebecca Shetler Fast wrote Oct. 11 by email from Port-au-Prince that four of MCC’s eight international staff traveled to the United States the second week of October, as another worker had previously done.

Two of six Haitian staff members were already taking leave at home with their families, and the rest were scheduled to begin doing so in the coming days.

MCC is in its 61st year working in Haiti and has 14 staff members from Haiti, Mozambique, Canada and the United States who work alongside 11 partner organizations.

“Movement throughout Port-au-Prince has been unsafe and continues to be so because of roadblocks and violent protests,” Shetler Fast wrote. “So our staff have been staying home from the beginning, except during occasional windows for safer movement.”

The Associated Press reported at least 20 people have been killed and hundreds injured in protests as opposition leaders demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse because of government corruption, escalating inflation and scarcity of food and fuel.

Before protests began, the United Nations indicated about 2.6 million people in the nation of roughly 11 million were vulnerable to food shortages. Humanitarian aid organizations have been forced to suspend deliveries because of transportation challenges.

“Providing relief at this time is not logistically possible because of violence and blockades that limit safe travel on major routes throughout the country,” Shetler Fast wrote.

Now in its fifth week, the crisis raised concerns among staff that supplies would run out. Burning roadblocks in cities across the country keep banks, gas stations and markets from restocking.

“We have carefully monitored the physical and psychological safety of the team,” Shetler Fast wrote. “As this crisis continues, we have given all MCC staff in Haiti the opportunity to take leave within or outside the country to recharge, and we have made counseling available for all staff who want it.”

MCC partners and staff in Port-au-Prince have been working in that city as they have been able. Shetler Fast noted that protests aren’t as active in rural areas, and partner organizations have had more freedom to carry out their work there.

Photo: Rebecca Shetler Fast, MCC representative for Haiti, gives a commemorative plaque to MCC agroforestry coordinator Jean-Remy Azor at a ceremony celebrating the launch of Konbit Peyizan pou Ranfòsman Kapasite Lokal (Agricultural Collective for the Reinforcement of Local Capacity), an independent organization developed by the national staff of MCC’s office in Desarmes. In spite of protests in Haiti, Konbit Peyizan is still able to carry out its work in Desarmes because of a temporary reprieve in the roadblocks one day in early October, which allowed them to get the supplies they needed to continue to work. Photo by Annalee Giesbrecht/MCC.

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