PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Clashes in Haiti between rival gangs in the capital, Port-au-Prince, have forced hundreds of people to flee their homes, the UN Deputy Spokesperson said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the regular daily press briefing, Farhan Haq said that according to the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, in Haiti, unrest has been growing between gang members in the neighbourhoods of the commune of Croix-des-Bouquets, Cité Soleil, Bas Delmas and Martissant.
“According to our humanitarian colleagues, violence in the commune of Croix-des-Bouquets has displaced more than 1,200 people…at least 26 civilians have been killed and 22 injured, although these figures are probably higher,” he said.
At the same time, dozens of houses have been burned; schools, medical centres and markets have had to close; and a hospital in Marin was looted.
Violence in the commune of Croix-des-Bouquets has displaced more than 1,200 people – UN spokesperson
“Displaced people need access to clean water, food, sanitation kits, children’s kits, kitchen kits, mattresses, blankets and clothing,” said Haq.
“The UN is ready to provide hot meals and additional assistance in coordination with national authorities”.
While working on a plan to relocate families being housed on temporary sites, the UN and its humanitarian partners have been supporting the Mayor’s Office of Tabarre and the Civil Protection Agency, in distributing hot meals and food, as well as essential items.
Since the assassination last July of president Jovenel Moïse, violent crime has been on the rise, according to media reports.
And last month, thousands took to the streets, demanding that the late president’s successor, Ariel Henry, do more to combat Haiti’s powerful criminal gangs, which have taken control of parts of the capital.
Warning system triggered
Haiti’s Civil Protection General Directorate-led national coordination committee, made up of UN agencies and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners, has activated an early warning system known as the Displacement Tracking Matrix, OCHA said.
Local NGOs are providing psychosocial activities for children at temporary sites, including recreational events, child friendly learning spaces, and counselling.
Kidnapping for ransom
Meanwhile, as the Haitian police struggle to contain the gang violence, kidnappings of foreigners and others by criminal gangs, demanding large ransoms, have been on the rise, according to news reports.
A Dominican diplomat was reported to have been kidnapped on Monday while travelling through a gang-controlled area, but while abducted foreigners have received most of the media attention, most victims are reportedly Haitian.
According to Haiti’s Centre for Analysis and Research on Human Rights, in 2021 more than 1,200 people were kidnapped – only 81 of whom were foreign nationals.
Ten percent were so-called “collective abductions,” where gang members abducted a group of people, sometimes by storming church services and kidnapping clergy in the middle of mass.