Traumatic violence in Haiti leaves children traumatized as the country tackles a taboo on mental health services.

The city of Port-au-Prince in Haiti is currently facing a crisis of powerful gangs controlling 80% of the city, leading to widespread violence and trauma among the population, especially children. School director Roseline Ceragui Louis has to comfort her students during gunfire by having them lie on the classroom floor while singing softly.

The violence has resulted in more than 2,500 people dead or wounded in the first three months of the year, prompting a push to address mental health issues in Haiti. Parents are being trained on how to help their children cope with trauma caused by the persistent gang violence, as many children are experiencing mental health issues and struggling to focus in school.

The situation has led to the closure of 900 schools, affecting around 200,000 children. UNICEF’s representative in Haiti has stated that the violence has displaced over 360,000 people, with a significant number of victims being women and children. The violence has also led to an increase in children joining armed groups, with between 30% to 50% of members being children.

Efforts are being made to provide support and training to teachers, parents, and children to help them navigate the challenging circumstances. Mental health discussions, although taboo in Haiti, are being encouraged to address the trauma and distress caused by the ongoing violence.

Despite the difficult circumstances, there are stories of resilience and hope, such as former gang members like Nornile, who have left the gangs and now work for nonprofits to support their communities. Training sessions are equipping parents with tools and strategies to connect with their children and create safe and supportive environments for them.

The situation in Haiti remains dire, but there are efforts being made to address the mental health and well-being of the population, especially the children who are the most vulnerable. As the country navigates through this crisis, the importance of addressing mental health and providing support to those affected by violence becomes increasingly apparent.

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