United Nations calls for urgent action to address humanitarian and security crisis in Haiti

Emmanuel Paul
Emmanuel Paul - Journalist/ Storyteller
CAPAC/Jean Vadler Presume Children in Haiti line up for a hot meal and water distributed by the World Food Programme (WFP) in Port-au-Prince.

The United Nations’ recent call for “bold and urgent” action on behalf of Haiti underscores the gravity of the situation facing this Caribbean nation.

Corruption, impunity and poor governance have plagued Haiti for years, exacerbating social,
economic and political problems. Combined with escalating gang violence, these problems have eroded the rule of law and brought state institutions to the brink of collapse, according to the latest United Nations report on Haiti.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, stressed that insecurity must be tackled as a priority in order to protect the population and avoid further human suffering. The impact of generalized insecurity on the Haitian population is terrible and rapidly deteriorating, seriously compromising human rights and exacerbating humanitarian crises across the country, Mr. Türk lamented.

The latest report, which covers the period from September 25, 2023 to February 29, 2024, provides alarming statistics on victims of gang violence.

In 2023 alone, 4,451 people lost their lives and 1, 668 were injured as a result of gang-related incidents. These figures underline the pervasiveness of violence in Haitian communities, with innocent civilians bearing the brunt of conflict.
In addition, sexual violence perpetrated by gangs remains a major concern, particularly against women and girls. The report highlights cases where women have been raped during gang attacks, often after witnessing the brutal murder of their loved ones. Some women are forced to have sex with gang members, while the rape of hostages is used as a means of extorting ransoms from families, revealed the latest UN report.

Children are among the most vulnerable groups affected by the crisis in Haiti

Gangs frequently recruit and exploit children, subjecting them to violence, coercion and exploitation. In some cases, young gang members attempting to leave their ranks have been killed, further highlighting the perilous conditions facing young Haitians. Moreover, the proliferation of gangs has disrupted daily life, imposing restrictions on the movement of people, goods and services, exacerbating humanitarian needs and hindering access to essential services.

As the security situation continues to deteriorate, “vigilante brigades” have emerged, further exacerbating the cycle of violence and vigilantism. The report notes an alarming increase in lynching cases, with at least 528 incidents reported in 2023 and a further 59 cases recorded this year.

In addition, despite arms embargoes, gangs have continued to obtain arms and ammunition across porous borders, giving them a considerable advantage over law enforcement authorities.
In response to the escalating crisis, the UN report calls for stricter national and international controls to stem the flow of arms and ammunition into Haiti. In addition, the urgent deployment of a multinational security support mission (MSS) is deemed essential to strengthen the capacities of local law enforcement agencies and restore stability in Haiti. However, addressing security concerns alone will not suffice. The report stresses the importance of implementing comprehensive policies aimed at restoring the rule of law, fighting corruption and ensuring accountability for human rights violations.

The crisis in Haiti has had a profound impact on children’s well-being, exacerbating malnutrition rates and disrupting access to education. Recent results from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis reveal a worrying increase in the number of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, underlining the urgent need for intervention to protect Haiti’s youngest citizens. In addition, attacks on schools by armed groups have deprived thousands of children of their right to education, further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis and perpetuating cycles of poverty and instability.

Despite these challenges, UN agencies remain committed to providing vital assistance to Haiti’s most vulnerable populations. The UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, reports ongoing efforts to distribute essential supplies such as food, water and medical aid to displaced communities. In addition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) continues to provide essential services, including nutritional support and educational programs, to mitigate the impact of the crisis on children and families.
The crisis in Haiti requires urgent and concerted action to address the root causes of instability and provide essential support to the Haitian people. Without decisive action, the situation is likely to worsen, bringing more suffering, displacement and instability to the region, warns UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Turk Volker.

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