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Haiti: UN officials say ‘we are running out of time’ amid escalating crises

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© UNICEF/Herold Joseph In Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, escalating violence has become a grim reality that is displacing thousands.

Ahead of an expected closed-door Security Council meeting, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, called for the urgent deployment, with no further delay, of the Council-mandated multinational security support mission in Haiti.

“The reality is that, in the current context, there is no realistic alternative available to protect lives,” the High Commissioner said. “We are simply running out of time.”

‘Lethal threat’ to national security

Last weekend’s mass prison breakout has been described by Haitian officials as a lethal threat to national security, Mr. Türk said.

More than 4,500 inmates are now known to have escaped, among them prominent gang members as well as those arrested in connection with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

The break followed coordinated gang action against national institutions with the stated aim of bringing down the Haitian Government.

“This situation is beyond untenable for the people of Haiti,” he said, noting that since the beginning of the year, a 1,193 people have been killed and 692 others injured by gang violence.

Crumbling services

In addition, more than 313,000 people are currently internally displaced, and a range of public services are crumbling.

“The health system is on the brink of collapse,” he added. “Hospitals often do not have the capacity to treat those arriving with gunshots wounds.”

At the same time, he said, schools and business are closed, and children are increasingly being used by gangs, he warned.

Economic activity is “asphyxiated as gangs impose restrictions on people’s movements”, he said.

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Violence ‘must stop’

Echoing those concerns, some humanitarian organisations drew attention on Tuesday to the impact of the violence on hospitals, health centres and schools in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and some other towns, according to the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA.

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Since 29 February, violence caused by armed gangs in the capital has led to the displacement of thousands of civilians and made access to basic social services extremely difficult, further exacerbating an already precarious daily life, said Ulrika Richardson, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti.

“This violence cannot continue; it must stop,” she declared, adding that more than 15,000 people, the majority of whom were already displaced, have been displaced again in recent days.

Violence disrupts aid deliveries

Humanitarian actors have begun to deliver emergency aid, but the persistence and expansion of the violence has severely disrupted operations, she explained.

“Thousands of people now find themselves unprotected, unsafe and exposed to all types of risks,” she stressed, emphasizing that displaced people and vulnerable populations need emergency aid and safe, protected spaces.

“Haiti is facing a complex humanitarian and protection crisis; every time violence breaks out, thousands of people fall into precarious situations and need emergency aid,” said Ms. Richardson. “Humanitarian organisations need unhindered access to the most vulnerable populations. Beyond humanitarian aid, Haiti needs greater international solidarity at this crucial time.”

Every hour gets worse

At a press briefing at UN Headquarters, Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said “every hour gets worse for Haiti.”

News outlets are now reporting that a gang leader is threatening to launch a civil war if Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry does not resign.

Mr. Dujarric said the UN will continue to follow the situation closely.

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