The United Nations (UN) and the government of Haiti have reiterated their appeal Tuesday for an international force to quickly deploy to the Caribbean island nation to help subdue an unprecedented level of gang violence that has terrorized the population. The move comes as 5.2 million people – nearly half of the Haitian population – are in need of humanitarian aid, including 2.6 million children.
"Gangs have increasingly resorted to the deliberate killing of men, women and children with snipers positioned on rooftops," Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti and Head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), Helen La Lime, told the UN Security Council (UNSC). "Dozens of women and children as young as 10 years old have been brutally raped, as a tactic to spread fear and destroy the social fabric of communities under the control of rival gangs."
La Lime said two coalitions of gangs — the G9 coalition and G-Pep — have caused unprecedented levels of violence as they fight over turf in the capital's largest slum, Cité Soleil. Gangs reportedly control about 60% of Port-au-Prince.
In early October, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres backed a request from the Haitian government to send an international specialized armed force to the Caribbean island nation to address spiraling insecurity and a deepening humanitarian crisis. Hopes that the United States or Canada might lead the force have not materialized, although both countries have sent equipment to assist the Haitian National Police. There has been little interest in contributing forces among the wider international community.
Meanwhile, the Haitian people continue to suffer, with killings and kidnappings rising and the armed gangs blocking access to food, water and health services.
"Close to 5 million people are facing conditions of acute hunger across the country, and while 90% of schools are now operating, thousands of children, especially those living in gang-affected areas, are yet to start the school year," U.N. Special Representative La Lime told the council. "And there are increasing reports of minors being recruited to serve in gangs."
Haiti's U.N. envoy echoed the urgency of the situation, saying there is no room for complacency.
"This is an imperative right now," Ambassador Antonio Rodrigue said. "If we overcome the gangs, we will restore order and peace by implementing the national security plan. We cannot wait, and the security situation could worsen any day, and worsen the fate of the people who are already suffering terribly."
Haiti is also facing a political crisis. As of January 9, the terms of the last 10 democratically elected senators expired, meaning there is not a single elected official left in the country. Rodrigue said without security, the country cannot hold free and fair elections to install a new government that could tackle the myriad challenges.
On a positive note, UNSC members welcomed the signing on December 21 of a National Consensus Agreement by a broad spectrum of Haitian political figures, civil society members, clergy, trade unions and the private sector on a way forward on elections.
In Haiti, millions of people need humanitarian aid to fight hunger. Widespread poverty, rising costs of living, low agricultural production, and expensive food imports have exacerbated existing food insecurity in Haiti, leaving many women, men, and children suffering from hunger and malnutrition. 4.7 million people - more than 40 percent of the population – are acutely food insecure.
About 1.8 million people are suffering from emergency levels of hunger. More than 19,000 people are facing catastrophic hunger. At least 5.2 million people (46% of the population) require humanitarian aid in 2023, including 2.6 million children.
The country has been in the grips of widespread gang-driven violence for more than a year. Since June 2021 recurrent territorial clashes between rival gangs inside and around Port-au-Prince have forced thousands of people to leave their homes. Already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, the Caribbean nation is also suffering from a severe economic crisis that has led to massive protests, looting, and the return of cholera.
Some information for this report provided by VOA.
Full text: Key Political Developments, Sanctions Offer Hope to Haiti’s Recovery if Supported by International Community, Special Representative Tells Security Council, UN Security Council press release, published January 24, 2023