NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 18:26
In Haiti, nearly 200 people have been killed by gang violence in less than two weeks. Furthermore, in the same period, between February 27 and March 9, at least 150 were injured, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reports in an update on the situation in the country.
The UN sees violence in Haiti becoming “increasingly violent and frequent”. It is particularly dangerous in the capital Port-au-Prince. Heavily armed gangs fight for each other’s territories.
Marta Hurtado, spokesman for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on the international community to send a temporary, specialized force to Haiti to combat gang violence. According to Hurtado, this requires a “comprehensive and precise action plan”. “People should be able to return home in safe and dignified conditions.”
From bad to worse
The UN has been warning for some time about the escalating situation in Haiti, where things have gone from bad to worse since the devastating earthquake in 2010. The central government has hardly any authority in the country. After the assassination attempt on Prime Minister Moïse in July 2021, gangs have become even more powerful; The attack created chaos and a power vacuum, from which criminals took full advantage. For example, about 60 percent of Port-au-Prince is now said to be in the hands of gangs.
According to a UN count, at least 531 people had been killed, 300 injured and 277 kidnapped this year by March 15. Snipers make the most victims, says UN spokesman Hurtado. They shoot randomly at people in houses or on the street. There are also numerous reports of sexual violence against women, with which the gangs intimidate and terrorize the population.
Schools are unsafe. Teachers and students are regularly hit by stray bullets and kidnappings regularly take place, so that many schools have closed their doors. This in turn makes children more susceptible to gang recruitment. “People are fleeing to escape the daily violence,” says Hurtado.
Some 160,000 Haitians have been displaced, the UN estimates. Refugee flows have also started to include the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. Those countries are struggling to accommodate the many Haitians.
Violence and general instability have also caused food prices to rise and supply problems. According to the UN, half of the population in Haiti currently does not have enough to eat.
Haitian Prime Minister Henry said on Friday that he was considering mobilizing the army to support the undermanned and poorly equipped police force. This would concern about 2000 soldiers who have been trained in Argentina, Mexico and Colombia. “The Haiti we want cannot be built with gangs running rampant. They have to listen, or we force them to listen,” said Henry.
Haiti’s army was disbanded in 1995 after participating in several coups. The army was re-established in 2017 after the end of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti. The army has been deliberately kept small ever since.
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