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“World must act now to stem the violence,” U.N. head says in appeal for help on Haiti

Miami Herald - 7/6/2023

The head of the United Nations called on the world on Thursday to extend a lifeline to Haiti’s people by filling the financial gap for an ongoing humanitarian appeal and to help the country tackle its ongoing gang violence by contributing uniformed personnel to a multinational force.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres also called on Haiti’s social and political leaders to accelerate their efforts toward a desperately needed political solution, warning that “the Haitian people are trapped in a living nightmare.”

“Taken together, these three vital and simultaneous steps are fundamental to breaking Haiti’s cycle of suffering— by addressing dramatic humanitarian and security challenges – and forging a political pathway out of the crisis,” Guterres said.

Guterres’ impassioned appeal came hours before the U.N. Security Council was scheduled to meet about the situation in Haiti and discussion the ongoing crisis before deciding later this month whether to renew of the mandate of the U.N. Integrated Office in Haiti.

Guterres visited Haiti on Saturday and heard first-hand accounts of the ongoing gang rapes of women and girls, the desperate humanitarian situation where almost half the population is going hungry and how the protracted political crisis continues without an apperent solution. After his visit he traveled to Trinidad and Tobago where he spent an hour and a half discussing the situation in Haiti, hoping to get Caribbean leaders’ support for the deployment of “a robust” international force.

He told the leaders that barely 23% of an ongoing U.N. humanitarian appeal for Haiti had been funded and called it “a tragedy within a tragedy.”

On Thursday, he expanded on the reality and ongoing challenges of Haiti’s 12 million people.

“Brutal gangs have a stranglehold on the people of Haiti” he told journalists. “Port-au-Prince is encircled by armed groups that are blocking roads, controlling access to food and health care, and undermining humanitarian support.... I have heard appalling accounts of women and girls being gang-raped, and of people being burned alive.”

In his latest report, which the Security Council will take up Thursday afternoon, Guterres said that the number of homicides in the first six months of this year increased by nearly 70% compared to the same period last year.

Weeks after Haitians began taking justice into their own hands with vigilante killings and mob lynchings, some of the gangs have now started their own movement — “Zam Pale,” or My Gun Speaks — to retaliate.

Nearly three dozen police officers have been killed this year at the hands of violent gangs, and dozens of police stations have come under attack, including 26 in the region that includes metropolitan Port-au-Prince. The secretary-general called it “a new and alarming cycle of violence which, if not urgently addressed, is likely to escalate through further mobilization, arming, and recruitment, especially of youths.”

The report, which details other gang-related attacks against women and children, and the prison system, will serve as a backdrop as the U.N. Security Council debates the situation in Haiti.

“The world must act now to stem the violence and instability,” Guterres said at the press conference. “Predatory gangs are using kidnappings and sexual violence as weapons to terrorize entire communities.”

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