Haiti: Gang violence claims nearly 200 lives in a month

In late April, heavily armed rival gangs began clashing and seizing territory in Port-au-Prince with renewed vigor, forcing more than 16,800 people, including children, to flee their homes and take refuge in temporary housing. Violence has engulfed dozens of districts, with hundreds of families caught in the crossfire.

At least 92 of the 188 people killed between April 24 and May 26 were not gang members, 113 others were injured, 12 were missing and 49 were kidnapped for ransom, according to OCHA.

But given limited access to areas where territorial clashes continue, the office warned that the death toll could be much higher.

The intensity and duration of the violence has shocked the country as it still reeled from the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last July and a power vacuum left by his assassination. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is preparing to discuss the future of the UN’s longstanding presence in Haiti, leaving its mandate in the country in question.
“Armed violence in Haiti has reached an unimaginable and unbearable level,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Michelle Bachelet said earlier this month, calling on the Haitian authorities to restore the rule of law and urging the international community to redouble its efforts to prevent “the situation from spiraling out of control.”

Officials say the scale of banditry has reached an unprecedented level. Evidence collected and cited by Bachelet included the beheadings, chopping and burning of bodies, and the killing of minors accused of being rival gang informants.

Gangs also gang-rape children under the age of 10, Bachelet said, a tactic used to punish people living in areas controlled by rivals.

The clashes forced the closure of 11 health centers and at least 442 schools, some of which were burned down and looted. They also blocked two major national roads connecting the capital to the rest of the country, restricting the movement of people and goods.

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OCHA said that while the violence appears to have subsided over the past few days, the situation remains “highly volatile”.

The Haitian Prime Minister’s Office and the Haitian Police did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. However, Prime Minister Henry repeatedly said that his government is working to ensure security in the country.

Haiti has been in turmoil for years, but since the murder of Moise on July 7, 2021, the violence has escalated dramatically.

The assassination of Moise plunged the country into political chaos, with opposition groups refusing to recognize the appointment of the current prime minister, Ariel Henry. Henry promised a speedy transition and elections as soon as he took office last July 20, but was unable to reach a political agreement on a transition or election timing.

In addition to the security situation and political crisis, Haiti is also suffering from high inflation and food insecurity, with one in five children in the Cité Soleil region near Port-au-Prince under the age of 5 suffering from acute malnutrition. , according to the UN.

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