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UN aid chief: Gangs control about 60% of Haiti’s capital


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UN – Nearly 60% of Haiti’s capital is dominated by gangs, whose violence and sexual assault have displaced thousands of people, the head of the UN humanitarian agency in the country this Caribbean expert said on Thursday.

That has left nearly 20,000 people in the capital facing a “catastrophic famine-like situation” as cholera broke out across Haiti, Ulrika Richardson said.

Richardson painted a bleak picture of a country in a downward spiral, with half the population in urgent need of food assistance as the death toll from cholera rose to 283. She said nearly 12,000 who have been hospitalized with the disease since October 2. , and there are now a total of more than 14,000 suspected cases of cholera in 8 out of 10 regions of the country.

She said all but 1,000 of the 20,000 Haitians facing hunger are in the capital, Port-au-Prince, mainly in the gang-controlled Cite Soleil slum. Richardson said the insecurity had led to “mass displacement”, especially in the capital, where 155,000 people have fled their homes.

She told a news conference that gangs are using “a very frightening level of sexual violence as a weapon” to control people, sow fear and punishment.

She said gang wars for territory and their criminal actions are dividing society and increasing insecurity.

Political turmoil has simmered in Haiti since the unsolved assassination of President Jovenal Moïse last year, who has faced protests calling for his resignation over allegations of corruption.

Daily life in Haiti began to spiral out of control in September just hours after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said fuel subsidies would be eliminated, causing prices to double. A gang led by Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, a former police officer, blocked the Varreux fuel station, causing a fuel crisis.

The United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Cherizier on October 21, and he announced on November 6 that his G9 gang union was lifting the blockade.

But despite the availability of fuel, Richardson said, the humanitarian, security and political situation is getting worse, saying that “everyone is affected by violence.”

Hentry and the Haitian Council of Ministers sent an urgent appeal on October 7 calling on United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to dispatch an international military force to address the violence in Haiti and alleviate the crisis. humanitarian crisis.

Richardson said UN Security Council members have held in-depth discussions since then, focusing on “potential leadership and the potential composition of such a force,” but until There is no decision yet.

“It is very important here that gang violence needs to be addressed,” she said.

While discussions are ongoing at the Security Council, Richardson said the United Nations and many countries are helping Haiti’s national police force – “and they need a lot of support in terms of equipment and training. create.”

In mid-November, the United Nations issued an urgent appeal for $145 million to respond to the cholera outbreak and growing hunger in Haiti, but so far, the organization has received only 23, $5 million, she said.

Richardson said the United Nations will call for $719 million for Haiti for 2023, double the amount this year, because the humanitarian situation is seriously deteriorating.

On a positive note, she said, schools are being reopened at about 53% across the country, mostly in the South. She said many of Haiti’s 4 million children have not received a proper education since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020.

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