The UN warns of the "desperation" in Haiti ravaged by violence


Looting, fuel shortages, closed hospitals... UN officials described on Monday a situation of humanitarian "desperation" in Haiti before the Security Council, which will consider new measures against the violence ravaging the country.

Demonstrations, roadblocks and scenes of looting have crossed the country since the announcement on September 11 by Prime Minister Ariel Henry of a rise in fuel prices, the subsidies costing too much for a State which is sorely lacking in funding.

"Instead of the progress we hoped for and dreamed of, today the situation in Haiti has unfortunately reached a new level of despair," said Valerie Guarnieri, deputy executive director of the World Food Program (WFP), denouncing the attacks against several food aid warehouses of WFP, other UN agencies and NGOs.

"We estimate that at least $6 million in humanitarian aid was lost in the attacks, which could have benefited more than 410.000 people in need."

While the price of the average food basket has climbed 52% in one year, "we expect food security to deteriorate further this year, surpassing the record 4,5 million people in food insecurity level of crisis or worse, including 1,3 million in emergency situations,” she added.

A situation all the more dramatic as stocks had been prepared before the arrival of the hurricane season.

And that the work of humanitarians on the ground is increasingly dangerous. The UN has also decided to evacuate its non-essential staff, according to a document seen by AFP.

“An economic crisis, a gang crisis and a political crisis have converged to create a humanitarian catastrophe,” commented UN envoy to Haiti Helen La Lime.

Small arms embargo? 

"The state of siege for more than a week" of the Varreux oil terminal, the largest in the country, blocked by gangs, "created a shortage across the country", and led to the closure of hospitals, she added.

Due to a lack of fuel, the Caracol industrial park, the largest, announced "the cessation of its operations", "which could cause the loss of 12.000 jobs", added the Haitian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean Victor Geneus, noting that private companies are threatening to leave the country and that the return to school already postponed to October 3 "is hypothetical".

However, he assured that the situation is now “generally under control” with calm “returned to several parts of the country”. However, again on Monday, according to the local press, the premises of the Ministry of the Economy were ransacked and burned in the city of Gonaïves.

The minister also called for "robust support" from the international community to support the Haitian police against armed gangs.

In July, the Security Council adopted a resolution asking UN member states to ban the transfer of small arms to gangs operating in Haiti, without going so far as to decide on an embargo demanded by China.

“It is necessary to transform this voluntary measure into a mandatory measure,” Chinese Ambassador Geng Shuang pleaded again on Monday.

The United States and Mexico, which drafted the July resolution, are working on a new text "to enable the Security Council to respond to the many challenges facing the Haitian people," said US Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis. "We have a duty to redouble our efforts to help Haiti."

"If gang violence is not stopped, it will not be possible to stabilize the country," added Mexican Ambassador Juan Ramon de la Fuente.

Beyond the latest outbreak of violence, the various speakers at this meeting highlighted the chronic security problems.

The UN estimates that “at least 1,5 million people have been directly impacted by recent gang violence,” said Helen La Lime. “With gender-based violence, and in particular rape, used systematically”.

The Editorial Board (with AFP)

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Summary of news from October 3, 2023

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