This dire situation in Haiti is untenable

News emerging on Monday that the Haitian Government has now turned to Africa and Latin America for help to deal with the security crisis there is further indication of that Caribbean nation's dire need for assistance.

A Caribbean Media Corporation story reports Haiti's Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Jean Généus as saying that Prime Minister Ariel Henry recently spoke with Senegalese President Macky Sall, and talks are being held with other African and Latin American countries.

The Haitian Government has apparently come to the conclusion that there is a lack of interest on the part of Western states to provide military assistance to Haiti, which has been gripped by political and economic crises since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021.

Rival gangs have taken control of up to 80 per cent of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and have continued a deadly fight for more territory.

The UN reports that more than 840 people were killed in the first three months of this year, while over 600 people have been slain in April alone. Also, more than 400 people have been kidnapped so far this year.

And, if that were not bad enough, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has reported that the gang violence has placed more than 115,000 children at the risk of starving to death this year, an increase from the near 86,000 last year.

Adding to the Haitian people's woes is the more than 41,000 suspected cases of cholera reported since the resurgence of the acute diarrhoeal illness in October, with children under the age of 14 making up almost half of the cases, UNICEF has told us.

The UN agency says it urgently needs US$17 million to help detect malnutrition and purchase food and medicine. If that support does not become available, more children will die.

There are people in Haiti who are strongly opposed to the international community sending help in the form of police or military personnel. At the same time, as we have pointed out in this space before the obvious hesitance by some countries to offer help is most likely fuelled by the fact that Haiti hasn't been able to shake instability, and previous attempts at military aid in the form of boots on the ground have not gone well.

However, the situation there, correctly described as "tragic" by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres during a joint news conference with Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Monday at Jamaica House is untenable and has the potential of spilling over into the wider region.

Mr Holness also explained that it's not that the pleas from the UN and the Caribbean for help have fallen on deaf ears. "The question," he said, "is the pace of action, and countries who would want to support would also want to be assured that there is a political process in place that could yield an end result in a time frame that makes sense."

That is not an unreasonable position.

A possible solution, we believe, is for a mediation team to get all players in the political conflict in Haiti involved in talks aimed at holding elections to install a legitimate Government. Naturally, those polls would require international observers to ensure transparency and acceptance of the results.

Additionally, a strategy to confront and dismantle the gangs is necessary.

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