May 21, 2024

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Parents in Haiti taught how to help children overcome trauma inflicted by gang violence

2 min read

Residents in Haiti are struggling to process the trauma of a crisis which has engulfed the country in the past few months.

At a recent training session in a relatively safe section of Port-au-Prince, parents learned games to put a smile on their children’s faces.

The parents are often so distraught and discouraged they don’t have energy to care for their children, said Yasmine Déroche, who trains adults to help children overcome trauma inflicted by persistent gang violence.

At the end of the training, parents were given a copy of the presentation, crayons and an inflatable ball.

Déroche, who runs the program, noted how parents feel so overwhelmed that they are disconnected from their children’s needs.

“I know that the crisis we’re living through right now will have consequences that will take I don’t know how many years to sort out,” she said.

Students often throw up or wet themselves when gunfire erupts outside their school in northern Port-au-Prince.

When they do, school director Roseline Ceragui Louis finds there’s only one way to try to calm the children and keep them safe: getting them to lie on the classroom floor while she sings softly.

Haiti’s capital is under the onslaught of powerful gangs that control 80% of of the city.

On Feb. 29, gangs launched coordinated attacks targeting key infrastructure.

The attacks have left more than 2,500 people dead or wounded in the first three months of the year.

Now, in a bid to help save Haiti’s youngest generation, the country is undergoing a wider push to dispel a long-standing taboo on seeking therapy and talking about mental health.

UNICEF’s Haiti representative said the violence has displaced more than 360,000 people, the majority women and children.

In addition, at least one-third of the 10,000 victims of sexual violence last year were children, Bruno Maes said.

More than 80 children were killed or wounded from January to March, a 55% increase over the last quarter of 2023 and “the most violent period for children in the country on record,” said Save the Children, a U.S. nonprofit.

A 24-year-old man who offered only his last name, Nornile, for safety reasons, said he was in a gang for five years.

He said he joined because the gang gave him money he needed and provided more food than his mother, a vendor, and his father, a mason, could offer him and his seven siblings.

At night, Nornile would work as a security guard for the gang leader.

During the day, he would run errands and buy him food, clothes, sandals and other goods.

Nornile said he felt proud the gang trusted him but thought about quitting when one of his three brothers was killed by gangs on June 16, 2022.

He left the gang two years after his brother died and began working for of the nonprofit Hearts for Change Organization for Deprived

By AP

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