UNITED NATIONS, (CMC) – A senior United Nations (UN) official says Haiti’s protracted political and humanitarian crises, marked by spiking levels of gang-related violence and a badly struggling national police force, are reversing crucial security and development strides made since the devastating 2010 earthquake.
“Years of hard-fought recovery gains are being undone, and Haitians are grappling with setting the country back on a path to democracy,” Helen La Lime, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Haiti, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.
In briefing the 15-member Council, La Lime said more than 2,100 murders and an estimated 1,300 kidnappings were reported last year and gang violence overall reached levels not seen in decades.
She said turf wars involving two gang coalitions, namely the G9 coalition and G-Pep, reached unprecedented levels in several neighbourhoods of Cité Soleil.
“This violence is part of well-defined strategies designed to subjugate populations and expand territorial control,” said La Lime, citing the deliberate killing of men, women and children with snipers positioned on rooftops.
She said dozens of women and children as young as 10-years-old have also been brutally raped as a tactic to spread fear and destroy the social fabric of communities under the control of rival gangs.
In addition, La Lime pointed out that gangs are besieging and displacing whole populations, who already live in extreme poverty, by intentionally blocking access to food, water and – amidst a cholera outbreak – health services.
The Special Representative said nearly five million people face conditions of acute hunger across Haiti, adding that while most schools are now operating, thousands of children, especially those living in gang-affected areas, have yet to start their school year.
Against that backdrop, she reiterated her calls for the deployment of an international specialised force to assist the Haitian National Police (HNP).
The UN said that force was first requested by the Government in October, but has yet to materialise.
“Haitians overwhelmingly want this assistance, so they can go about their daily lives in peace,” La Lime said.
In a December briefing to the Security Council, she stressed that despite government investment, the HNP “continues to be under-resourced and insufficiently equipped to address the enormity of the task ahead.”
Nevertheless, the UN Special Representative welcomed the Security Council’s adoption of a new sanctions regime on those who support criminal activities and armed group violence in the country, as well as new bilateral sanctions.