Haiti: Gang violence kills nearly 200 in one month

Heavily armed rival gangs began clashing and seizing territory in Port-au-Prince with new intensity in late April, forcing more than 16,800 people, including children, to abandon their homes and flee. shelter in temporary accommodation. The outbreak of violence has spread to dozens of neighborhoods, with hundreds of families caught in the crossfire.

At least 92 of the 188 people believed to have been killed between April 24 and May 26 were not gang members, with 113 others injured, 12 missing and 49 kidnapped for ransom, according to OCHA.

But given restricted access to districts where territorial clashes are ongoing, the office warned that the number of people killed could be much higher.

The intensity and duration of the violence has ravaged the country as it is still reeling from the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last July, and the power vacuum his assassination left behind. The UN Security Council, meanwhile, is preparing to debate the future of the long-standing UN presence in Haiti, leaving a question mark over its mandate in the country.
“Armed violence has reached unimaginable and intolerable levels in Haiti,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said earlier this month, urging Haitian authorities to restore the rule of law and calling the international community to redouble its efforts to prevent the situation. of “uncontrollable spiral”.

Officials say the scale of gang violence has reached unprecedented levels. Testimonies collected and cited by Bachelet included beheadings, cutting and burning of bodies and the murder of minors accused of being informants for rival gangs.

The gangs also gang-raped children as young as 10, a tactic used to punish people living in areas under rival control, Bachelet said.

The clashes forced 11 medical centers and at least 442 schools to close, some of which were set on fire and robbed. They also blocked the two main national roads linking the capital to the rest of the country, restricting the movement of people and goods.

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OCHA said that while the violence appeared to have eased in recent days, the situation remained “very volatile”.

The Haitian Prime Minister’s office and Haitian police did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. However, Prime Minister Henry has repeatedly said that his government is working to create security in the country.

Haiti has been in turmoil for years, but the violence has escalated dramatically since the assassination of Moïse on July 7, 2021.

The murder of Moïse has thrown the country into political chaos, with opposition groups refusing to recognize the appointment of current Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Henry had promised a quick transition of power and elections once he took office on July 20 last year, but was unable to reach a political agreement for the transition or a timetable for the elections.

In addition to the security situation and political crisis, Haiti also suffers from high levels of inflation and food insecurity, with one in five children in the Cité Soleil neighborhood near Port-au-Prince aged under 5-year-old child suffering from acute malnutrition, according to the UN.

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