Message to the world: Haiti really can’t wait!
With each week of inaction by the international community the situation in Haiti worsens.
Amid the deadly gang violence, shortage of water in some sections of the country, and threat of cholera, we are now hearing from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) that almost half of Haiti’s population, or 4.9 million people, now struggles to feed themselves. That number, the WFP tells us, is three times that of seven years ago.
According to the WFP, soaring inflation has made basic food items unaffordable for many Haitians.
As if that were not bad enough, gang violence in the capital, Port-au-Prince, has restricted movement and access to food, water, and sanitation, while the spread of armed groups to agricultural areas has created further cause for alarm.
Data from the UN human rights office show that since the start of this year more than 530 people have been killed in gang violence, which spiralled out of control after the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
We recall that in February this year UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr Volker Turk called on world leaders “to urgently consider the deployment of a time-bound specialised support force”.
Mr Turk made the appeal while highlighting a UN report which pointed out that the Cite Soleil commune in Port-au-Prince had seen a sharp increase in mass incidents of murder, gang rape, and sniper attacks in recent months.
Just over a week ago US Secretary of State Mr Antony Blinken was reported as saying that talks were still under way on an intervention force for Haiti, and US President Joe Biden was expected to discuss the crisis with Canada’s President Justin Trudeau during a visit at that time.
That discussion, Mr Blinken said, would examine what both the US and Canada, along with other countries in the region, including those in Caricom, could do to help bring some sort of stability to Haiti.
However, Mr Blinken made it clear that the US — which obviously does not have an appetite for military intervention at this time — would not go beyond bolstering Haiti’s National Police, which, he said, was not “properly resourced”.
Caricom, it appears, is looking at helping to strengthen Haiti’s democratic institutions, but that will prove difficult as long as the violence continues.
Caricom, though, has a vested interest in the crisis being resolved. For, as Haiti’s Foreign Minister Jean Victor Généus warned during a meeting of the Organization of American States a few months ago, the insecurity in the country will spill over into neighbouring states.
It’s a most difficult problem, but one which needs urgent and creative attention.
The WFP has told us that humanitarian support was making a difference. However, it has appealed for US$125 million to support its programmes in Haiti for six months.
Mr Jean-Martin Bauer, the WFP country director, makes a most unsettling point, telling the world, “Haiti can’t wait.”
“We cannot wait for the scale of the problem to be expressed in deaths before the world responds. But that is where we are heading,” he said.
If that is not enough to spur the international community into action, we don’t know what will.