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A day in the life of Haitians in the capital city of Port-au-Prince


Haiti is in free fall. Gangs menace the country's port and its people. Cholera is spreading. And there are weekly protests calling for the resignation of the country's leader. NPR's Eyder Peralta is in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, and joins us now. Hi, Eyder.


RASCOE: Eyder, things are so bad, the U.N. is considering international intervention. How did things get to this point?

PERALTA: Yeah, I spoke to one of the country's 10 elected officials, and he described the situation as Haiti having collapsed. And essentially this is the fallout from the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Since he was killed last year, there was a power struggle in this country. A man who has been accused of playing a part in his assassination, Ariel Henry, is now the country's leader. And at the same time, the gang violence that has been a problem for decades in Haiti has now spiraled completely out of control. There are areas of Haiti where the fighting is so intense that thousands have had to flee their homes. And for more than five weeks now, the main fuel depot and the port have been blockaded by gangs, and the government has been unable to break it.

RASCOE: So it makes sense then that the U.N. is taking calls for intervention seriously. What does Port-au-Prince feel like right now?

PERALTA: This is usually a bustling city. Traffic is notoriously bad here, and right now there's just very few cars on the roads. Most stores are closed. Some hospitals are closed. The sidewalks, which are usually full of street vendors, are pretty much empty. And pretty much everywhere you go, there are these huge mountains of trash, and the trash trucks don't have any gas. So trash just keeps piling up.

RASCOE: And you've been talking to people. What do they say?

PERALTA: Yeah, that's the heartbreaking part. One woman at a cholera treatment center we visited told me that hope had died here in Haiti. And then we went to a park just across the street from the main airport here. And I'd say there were probably about 2,000 people. And those were people who had to leave their home because of violence. We heard that some of their family members had been killed by gunfire. We heard that as new gangs moved into their neighborhoods, they set houses on fire. People have made tents out of whatever plastic they've been able to find. And we saw so many kids suffering. They're sleeping out in the open. They don't have clean water. They don't have enough food. We met some with cholera. We met Shelan Joseph. She was holding her 2-year-old, and her baby was just skin and bones. He was crying. He looked lost. Shelan says she's been trying desperately to breastfeed him, but nothing seems to be helping.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: She cannot really feed a baby.

PERALTA: So he's not eating, like, food.


SHELAN JOSEPH: (Through interpreter) When we try to feed him, he vomits the food.

PERALTA: She hasn't taken him to the doctor.

JOSEPH: (Through interpreter) I don't have money.

PERALTA: And, you know, maybe in the past, she could have taken a motorcycle to a hospital. But right now, there's no fuel. There are few motorcycles. It's expensive. It's impossible. And we didn't see a single person - not from the government, not from a charity - no one was at that park trying to help people. And the thing I kept hearing on the streets of Port-au-Prince is that people here feel abandoned.

RASCOE: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Eyder, thank you so much.

PERALTA: Thank you, Ayesha. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.