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The airport in Haiti’s capital is reopening after months of gang violence, helping to ease the humanitarian crisis

Haiti’s main international airport reopened Monday for the first time in nearly three months after brutal gang violence forced authorities to close the airport to all traffic in early March.

The reopening of Toussaint Louverture International Airport in the capital Port-au-Prince is expected to help alleviate the critical shortage of medicines and other basic supplies as the country’s main seaport remains paralyzed.

For now, however, only Sunrise Airways, a local airline, flies in and out of Port-au-Prince. It is expected that US-based airlines will not start this until late May or early June.

The first Sunrise Airways flight, bound for Miami, was scheduled to depart at 2:30 PM ET.

Before Monday’s reopening, the only airport in Haiti was in the northern coastal city of Cap-Haïtien.

However, it has been inaccessible for many seeking to flee the country as the roads leading from Port-au-Prince to Cap-Haïtien are controlled by gangs who have opened fire on passing cars and buses.

As a result, the Canadian and US governments evacuated citizens and permanent residents by helicopter from elsewhere in Port-au-Prince, as did non-profit organizations, while powerful gangs laid siege to parts of the capital.

WATCH | CBC News in Haiti’s capital, where gangs control much of the city:

CBC News gets rare access to Port-au-Prince as Haiti faces a gang crisis

CBC News’ Paul Hunter travels with the World Food Program from the port city of Cap-Haïtien to Port-au-Prince to witness the cataclysmic humanitarian crisis and the efforts to bring food and aid to millions of Haitians.

Capital in the grip of violence

The attacks began on February 29, with gunmen taking control of police stations, opening fire at Port-au-Prince airport and storming Haiti’s two largest prisons, freeing more than 4,000 prisoners.

Gangs have since targeted previously peaceful communities, leaving thousands homeless.

People walk between some burned out cars.
People search for salvageable pieces from burned-out cars in a garage that was set on fire in Port-au-Prince during violence by armed gangs on March 25. (Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press)

According to the United Nations, more than 2,500 people were killed or injured in Haiti between January and March, an increase of more than 50 percent compared to the same period last year.

The airport attack left then-Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who was on an official trip to Kenya, locked out of Haiti. He has since resigned and a presidential transition council is looking for a new prime minister for Haiti.

The council is also charged with selecting a new cabinet and organizing general elections.

In recent weeks, U.S. military planes have landed at Port-au-Prince airport with supplies including medicine and hydration fluids — as well as civilian contractors to help Haiti prepare for the arrival of foreign troops expected to help stem the violence to suppress gangs. who own 80 percent of the capital.

WATCH | Port-au-Prince residents who rely on humanitarian assistance during a security crisis:

Life in the gang-controlled streets of Port-au-Prince

CBC News was given rare access to Port-au-Prince, where gangs control much of the Haitian capital and people rely on humanitarian aid for almost everything. Officials in Haiti are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a multinational force that will hopefully restore order.

Foreign police officers on their way

Korir Sing’oei, Kenya’s principal foreign secretary, said on Sunday that a plan to deploy police officers from the East African country was in its final stages.

“I can tell you with certainty that that deployment will take place in the coming days, weeks,” he said. Sing’oei added that “there is no chance at all” that Kenyan President William Ruto will visit Haiti.

Ruto was scheduled to leave Kenya on Sunday for an official four-day visit to the US, where he is expected to meet President Joe Biden.

In March, Kenya and Haiti signed agreements to try to salvage a plan for the African country to deploy a thousand police officers to the restive Caribbean country to end the violence.

Other countries expected to support the Kenyan forces include the Bahamas, Barbados, Benin, Chad and Bangladesh. It was not immediately clear when those troops would arrive.

WATCH | Uneasy calm in Haiti’s capital as transitional government struggles to restore order:

The fight to quell gang violence continues in Haiti’s capital

An uneasy calm prevails in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince as the transitional government struggles to restore order over warring gangs that control the city and as people are displaced by the violence.