Haiti is in the midst a humanitarian crisis. Gang warfare has deepened since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in the summer of 2021. The crisis of hunger has increased. Cholera As it has done before, the spread of this disease is partly due to the fact that doctors are not able to provide care.

Natalie Kitroeff was the person I spoke to. The Times’s bureau chief for Mexico, Central America and The Caribbean, who reported recently from Haiti about the crisis.

Claire: Many areas of Haiti are controlled by criminal organizations. What is the secret to their success?

Natalie: Haiti’s gangs have existed for decades. But they became particularly brazen under Moïse. Ariel Henry was elected as the new prime minister after Moise’s assassination. However, he was not confirmed by Parliament. and A lot of people saw him as unlegitimate. The The country’s institutions were devastated. The That power vacuum was filled by gangs. and The state is no longer able to protect the nation’s most essential arteries.

Can you describe how Haitian life has changed since these gangs came to power?

We can examine two key events to understand the current situation. In July, rival gangs fought over control of Cité Soleil, the largest slum in Haiti, where about 300,000 people live. The war lasted approximately a week and broke out between the two gangs. and This led to hundreds of deaths. Gang members destroyed entire neighborhoods. As a weapon of war, women were raped. It was horrible. It was a terrible place. and Many of them were refugees who have lived in Port.-au-Prince, the capital.

Henry, the prime Minister, raised the fuel price a few months later. This sparked protests and plunged Haiti into near anarchy. and One of the gangs obstructed the port through the country, which is where most of the fuel goes. This turned a difficult situation into a crisis. Haiti doesn’t have a functional electrical grid, so everything runs on diesel generators. When there’s no fuel, it impacts almost everything. The stations that sold gas were shut down. It was impossible to collect trash in large parts of the capital so it ended up in the slums. The water utility lost its ability of pumping enough water and aid workers couldn’t bring in water to areas blocked by gangs, which medical experts believe was a major contributor in the cholera outbreak.

You’re based in Mexico. What did you see when you traveled to Haiti to report — how present was the violence?

I flew into Port-au-Prince. The The airport is still functional. And it’s located right by Cité Soleil, the slum. This sprawling shantytown can be seen from the air. You can see the sun shining on the corrugated metal buildings. I remember seeing thousands of refugees sleeping on cardboard in the camp. and The airport was right next to cement. There weren’t a lot of people in the street, either, and Black market fuel was the only option.

People drive very fast. Port usually sees people driving in a little panic.-au-These windy roads go up and Prince will be guided by them and Fear of being kidnapped by gang members has led to a decline in hilly areas. Kidnappings, targeting both rich and Poor Haitians occurred at a rate at four per day last month according to U.N. This feeling of possibility for something to happen at any time hits you as soon as you leave the airport.

If there’s essentially a lock on the country, no fuel and How can Haitians survive in constant gang violence? For example, how do they eat?

Haiti has been experiencing hunger since its inception. In Cité Soleil this year, it reached famine-Similar conditions exist for many thousands of people. Some claimed they drank rainwater. Some people said they boiled their leaves. I noticed that Haitians are very close to one another. Many people will tell that their neighbors helped them to survive. A young woman I spoke to said that she fled her home after her neighbors warned her about gang leaders coming to rape. People help one another survive.

It’s hard to describe how bad the situation is. When I was in Port, for example, it was extremely difficult to describe the situation.-au-Prince, there were children who had been wounded by gunshots and slept in a large makeshift camp. During this rainy season, people’s homes get completely flooded and they can’t sleep at night. Streets are trash rivers and They are used by people who walk through them naked.

Are there still places on the island that aren’t touched by gang violence, or where relatively well-off Haitians live more normal lives?

Miami is home to many wealthy Haitians who spend quite a bit of their time there.-An hour flight away. Experts believe that these gangs were facilitated in their rise. and These elites are funding these gangs because they use them to accomplish their own goals, such as creating chaos when it suits, mobilizing, or suppressing votes. and To facilitate the flow and movement of goods, you must pay the gangs.

Many wealthy Haitians travel around in armored cars and Security details. Violence is not an exception to the rule. and Chaos and It is full of potential.

You’ve covered stories across Latin America, but the situation in Haiti is extreme. What is the difference between reporting from Haiti and other countries that are experiencing hardship?

A Haitian told me that he was a U.S. veteran and had served in many wars. I asked him, How does Haiti compare to a war zone? He answered, “In a war, you know who’s shooting at you.” That is what I think about every day.

Natalie Kitroeff was born near Philadelphia and Mexico City, where she has been living since 2020. She is rooting for the U.S. in the World Cup. and Mexico.

Related: Read Natalie’s dispatch from the front lines of the gang wars in Haiti.