Haiti’s crisis deepens as thousands displaced by violence

More than 3,000 people have fled their homes amid growing violence in neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince, UN agency says.

A surge in violence in parts of Haiti’s capital over the past week has pushed more than 3,000 people to flee their homes, including many who have been forced to seek shelter in improvised sites that leave them vulnerable to attacks.

More than half of the internally displaced people in Port-au-Prince “have had to leave their temporary accommodations in host communities” for the improvised sites where conditions are “extremely dire”, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Wednesday.

The agency estimates that nearly 200,000 people are displaced across the Caribbean nation, with the highest concentration in the capital, where fierce fighting between armed gangs has raged over the past several months and violence has skyrocketed.

“High levels of insecurity are creating a climate of mistrust between certain host communities and displaced populations, thus deteriorating social cohesion,” the IOM said.

“This situation is causing the displaced persons to leave the relative safety of these homes for improvised displacement sites where they are exposed to additional risks, including communal violence, sexual and gender-based violence, discrimination, and outright abuse.”

Earlier this week, an IOM emergency data tracker reported that armed violence in the Port-au-Prince neighbourhoods of Carrefour-Feuilles and Savanes Pistaches at the weekend had forced approximately 3,556 people across 717 households to flee.

Most have taken shelter in local schools, the agency said.

Gang violence has surged in Haiti – particularly after the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, which created a power vacuum – and the country’s virtually non-existent government system has made stemming attacks more difficult.

The violence has impeded access to healthcare facilities, forced the closure of schools and clinics, and worsened already dire food insecurity by cutting residents of gang-controlled areas off from critical supplies.

Meanwhile, Haiti’s de facto leader, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, whom Moise chose for the post just days before he was killed, has faced a crisis of legitimacy – and attempts to chart a political transition for Haiti have failed.

“The dire security situation is exacerbated by intense political deadlock, a dysfunctional judicial system, and long-running impunity for human rights abuses,” Human Rights Watch said in a report on the crisis earlier this week.

In October of last year, Henry called on the international community to help set up a “specialised armed force” to quell the violence, a demand that has the backing of the United States and the United Nations.

Some Haitian civil society leaders have rejected the prospect of foreign intervention, saying past deployments have brought more harm than good.

But late last month, Kenya said it was prepared to lead a “multinational force” in Haiti – provided the mission gets a mandate from the UN Security Council – to help train and assist the Haitian police to “restore normalcy”.

A Kenyan delegation is expected to travel to Haiti soon to assess a possible mission.

Meanwhile, news outlets reported on Tuesday that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had offered a range of options for Haiti in a report to the Security Council.

“Addressing the security situation in Haiti requires a range of coercive law enforcement measures, including active use of force in targeted police operations against heavily armed gangs,” Guterres said in the 12-page letter, as reported by The Associated Press.

The report came in response to a Security Council resolution adopted on July 14 asking Guterres to come up with “a full range of options” within 30 days to help address the violence in Haiti, the news agency said.

Source: Al Jazeera