It is possibly the most lawless and deadly place on earth.
Port-au-Prince, capital of Haiti, is in the grip of an unprecedented wave of gang violence.
Almost 1,000 people were murdered there in the first six months of 2022 alone while there were over 1,000 kidnappings linked to organised crime by October, according to the UN. Some 70 per cent of the entire city is now a no-go area for police.
The poorest country in Latin America, already struggling to recover after the devastation of a massive earthquake in 2010, descended into this fresh wave of bloodshed and chaos after its president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated last year.
Gang leaders include men such as former police officer Jimmy Cherizier (pictured), nicknamed ‘Barbecue’ because of his alleged preference for burning his enemies alive
More than 100 rival gangs, funded by ransom money from a kidnapping epidemic, moved in to fill the resulting power vacuum, leaving many neighbourhoods a ‘gangster’s paradise’, sealed by barricades of tyres.
Armed hoodlums control the entries and exits from the capital, despite frequent protests by the citizens against the violence as more than a third of the country’s 11.5million population faces acute hunger.
Even the parliament and main courthouse are marooned within gangland turf.
Stinking rubbish piles up knee-high in the streets and cholera has returned after a three-year absence.
Gang leaders include men such as former police officer Jimmy Cherizier, nicknamed ‘Barbecue’ because of his alleged preference for burning his enemies alive.
The poorest country in Latin America descended into this fresh wave of bloodshed and chaos after its president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated last year. Pictured: protests in July 2021
His G-9 grouping of gangs blockaded the main oil depot for two months, holding the country to ransom.
Despite UN sanctions against him, he cultivates a ‘Robin Hood’ image on social media.
In October Haiti begged the UN for foreign intervention, but no country yet wants to commit to ‘boots on the ground’ in such a dangerous situation.
Rachelle Seguin, a medical coordinator for charity Doctors Without Borders told MailOnline: ‘At one point this year our emergency room had to treat about 80 cases of gunshot wounds in 72 hours.’
A 16-year-old girl has told how she was gang raped by three men whose mob marched her father and brother from their home to be murdered in lawless Haiti.
Still shaken from her ordeal, Anne said the attack happened during a massacre in her shanty town of Source-Matelas, near Port-au-Prince, on November 28 when gangs of men raided houses and raped and murdered those hiding inside.
Speaking to MailOnline, Anne said: ‘We hid in the house. I heard people shouting “fire, fire, go back into your house!”.
Anne, 16, (pictured) said she was gang raped by three men whose mob marched her father and brother from their home to be murdered in lawless Haiti
‘People were going home to hide under their bed. They climbed on the roofs of houses, poured down gasoline then lit it. As the women fled for their lives they were grabbed and raped.’
For nine hours, Anne and her family cowered in terror, in their one-room shack made of plywood and sheet metal, praying that they might escape the killing. But around 10pm the men burst into their home.
‘We were hiding under the bed and they threw a gas can against the door, which opened, and the gas spilt inside the house,’ said Anne, tears spilling down her face.
‘They pulled us out from under the bed and dragged my father and my brother outside the house and took them away while beating them non-stop on their heads and bodies.
‘Two men dragged my father and two others took my brother. Four others from the gang stayed in the house.’
She has never seen her brother or father again, and assumes, like most other men from the town, they were taken to their deaths, probably by what is known as a ‘necklace’ – a burning tyre around their necks.
Anne continued: ‘They dropped my little sister in front of the front door, she didn’t move. Then they took my 17-year-old cousin who was taller than me, threw her on the bed and they raped her in front of me.
‘Then they beat her and threw her on the ground. ‘
Forcing her to watch her cousin’s unspeakable suffering, one of the gang put his hand over Anne’s mouth to stop her screaming, even though no-one would hear her.
Anne has received support from a local human rights organisation, RNDDH, which allowed MailOnline to speak to her to highlight the plight of a society on the brink
‘Then they dragged me outside and beat me. My cousin was still on the floor inside. My little sister was unconscious on the doorstep, and as they left, one of the gangsters trod on her and shook her with his foot, but there was no reaction and he kicked her back into the house.
‘One of those who had left with my father came back and doused my cousin and sister with gasoline and set fire to the house.’
But even then Anne’s ordeal was far from over.
‘After they beat me, three of them raped me,’ she said. ‘I was wearing a T-shirt, a skirt and tights. I was a virgin and they tore each garment apart with their hands. At the same time, they beat me in the face while accusing me of being a spy. I was so confused, losing my mind. I remember crying, seeing the house burning with my sister and cousin inside.
‘I thought of my cousin and my sister perishing in the fire, I could hear the cries of other people.’
People flee their homes during an attack by armed gangs in the Carrefour Feuille neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in November
The massacre in Source-Matelas was sparked by the public execution of a local man called Jephté who gang leaders accused of being a police informant.
An horrific image was circulated on social media to intimidate others showing the victim seconds before his death, bound hand and foot inside a truck tyre, with a petrol canister beside him.
‘I was afraid to die because I was thinking about what had happened the day before to Jephté, but I was also thinking that they could put a tyre around my neck and burn me alive. I don’t know why they didn’t throw me inside the burning house as well.’
She recalled little about the men, other than that most wore scarves or masks and some also wore gloves.
The massacre in Source-Matelas was sparked by the public execution of a local man called Jephté (pictured) who gang leaders accused of being a police informant
‘Those who came to my house had no firearms; they had petrol cans and clubs. Others did have guns as I could hear the shots. They were shooting at those who tried to run away.
‘While I was lying in the street, being beaten, a big man with red eyes came running by and the bandits left me on the ground to run after him.’
Whoever that unfortunate man was, he surely saved Anne’s life.
She added: ‘In the distance I could see neighbours fleeing and I saw other women who I think were being raped by the bandits.
‘So I crawled on the ground to get out of sight behind my house where there was a small path near the toilet. All my clothes were gone.
‘I saw a lady picking up laundry to put in a bag at a nearby house. I was naked and asked the lady to give me something to put on. She threw a dress towards me. It was too big, but I put it on anyway and followed the lady who was running away herself.’
A police officer prevents protesters from entering a hotel that was just looted during a protest against Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry calling for his resignation in October
In the darkness and confusion Anne lost sight of the other woman, but somehow made her way to the main road, and then to the address of the only adult she knew outside her community – a hairdressing client of her murdered cousin in the nearby town of Cabaret who took her in and found her a doctor.
Since then, Anne has stayed with the woman, working as an unpaid housemaid. Her future is as uncertain as that of Haiti herself.
She dreads the stigma which still attaches to rape victims in many parts of Haiti: ‘I don’t talk about my experience to others, I’m afraid. If people know what happened to me, they might not want to see me again, not love me anymore.’
She has no way to contact more distant relatives, as she doesn’t know where they live, and besides being too frightened to return home, she has no money to get there.
Jimmy ‘Barbecue’ Cherizier, leader of the ‘G9’ coalition, speaks during a press tour of the La Saline shanty area of Port-au-Prince last November
Anne has received support from a local human rights organisation, RNDDH, which allowed MailOnline to speak to her to highlight the plight of a society on the brink.
Asked what she would like to happen to the men who robbed her of everything in her life, she said simply: ‘I would like these bandits to meet another group of more criminal bandits so that they can perish in the fire as my family did, or that the police could find and arrest them.’
She made a heartfelt appeal to the outside world, saying: ‘To those who will read this article, I would like them to think of us in Haiti because I would like us to get out of this situation.’
Cut off from everything she once knew, and despite the impossibly bleak situation in her country, she clings to the hope of a better future, saying: ‘I need to leave the house where I live; I need to go back to school. I would like to live in Haiti in complete safety without armed gangs.
‘I would like to learn English and become a doctor to take care of victims of sexual violence.’