Greater protections needed for Haitians

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Flag map of Haiti (image: courtesy of GDJ)

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, Ulrika Richardson, on Friday called for greater protection and assistance for people living in areas affected by the ongoing gang violence in the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country. Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told reporters that “Ms. Richardson said it is simply unacceptable that people going about their daily lives and children playing outside and going to school are targeted”. He quoted her as saying schools and hospitals are being looted and destroyed and that an estimated 360,000 people are displaced, the majority of them women and children, including more than 160,000 people in Port-au-Prince. “Many families have been displaced multiple times and the recent coordinated attacks on the neighbourhoods of Delmas and Gressier on 25 April displaced another 10,000 people,” the UN spokesman added.

Following assessments in Gressier, the World Food Programme (WFP) said close to 2,900 people will receive daily hot meals for two weeks. “The agency has also continued food distributions in Cité Soleil, which, as you know, is one of Port-au-Prince’s most vulnerable and poorest neighbourhoods. They have now reached 80,000 people there since last Friday,” the UN spokesman added.

Haiti has been steeped in political turmoil and social unrest following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on 7 July 2021. Rival gangs have over-run the poverty-stricken French-speaking country, plunging citizens into further despair and forcing several foreign agencies to remove non-essential staff from their offices in Haiti.

More than 2,500 people were killed or injured across Haiti from January to March, according to the United Nations. Nearly 95,000 people have fled Port-au-Prince. People are struggling to find food and access healthcare with Haiti’s ports and airport closed.

In March, Kenya and Haiti signed an agreement that would allow the African country to lead a United Nations Security Council sanctioned Multinational Security Mission (MSS) to restore peace and security in Haiti. Last October, the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of the MSS to back Haiti’s beleaguered police force, which Kenya offered to lead. A 2022 sanctions regime, targeting gang leaders and their financiers, was also renewed.

Media reports in Port-au-Prince Friday noted that a first contingent of 200 Kenyan police officers should arrive in the country next week. The reports said they are elite officers from the Kenyan Police Reconnaissance Unit, the rapid deployment force and the special operations group who fought the terrorist group Al-Shabaab on the border between Kenya and Somalia. The first contingent of the mission in Haiti should leave Kenya for Haiti between 18 and 22 May, the reports added.

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