Gang members patrol the street holding guns six months after a massacre in the La Saline slum of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, May 31, 2019. ( Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

This story is part of a special investigation into Haiti's gang crisis and potential solutions. To view the full series visit our special section, Gangs in Haiti: A deeper look.

CAP-HAITIEN — After Jameson Davilma's mother died from an illness when he was 13, the boy often counted on neighbors near his Cité Soleil home to survive. Sometimes, usually late at night, a neighbor might send him on en errand to buy food. Only then would Davilma have a bite from what the neighbor shared.

"Sometimes, I cried when I got hungry," Davilma, now 30, recalls. "I’d wake up and couldn't find even a piece of bread or a little coffee. I’d spent the whole morning with no food — couldn't even buy a small marinad. Then by noon, my stomach was filled with gas."


With many residents turning to neighborhood groups for basic services where Haiti’s government has failed, gangs are empowered, filling a leadership vacuum and fueling the country’s long cycle of violence and repression.

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Onz Chery is a Haiti correspondent for The Haitian Times. Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and Elite Sports New York before joining The Haitian Times in 2019.