Haiti's death toll rises as intl. support lags, UN report says

Haiti's death toll rises as intl.  support lags, UN report says

People walk past remains of vehicles near the presidential palace, after they were set on fire by gangs, as violence spreads and armed gangs expand their control over the capital, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 25. File photo credit Reuters/Ralph Tedy Erol.


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti--More than 2,500 people were killed or injured in gang violence in Haiti from January through March, up 53% from the last three months of 2023, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti BINUH said on Friday.

At least 590 were killed during police operations, BINUH said in a report. Several were apparently not involved in gang violence, some had impaired mobility and at least 141 were killed by vigilante justice groups.

Most of the violence took place in the capital of Port-au-Prince, while at least 438 people were kidnapped across the wider West Department and agricultural Artibonite region. The capital's port-side La Saline and Cité Soleil areas had the longest large-scale attacks.

Gang members continued to perpetrate rapes against women and girls in rival neighbourhoods, as well as in prisons and displacement camps, the report found.

Hundreds of thousands have been internally displaced by gangs, the UN estimates. Despite criticism by the world body, countries such as the United States and neighbouring Dominican Republic are still deporting migrants back into Haiti.

The US Department of Homeland Security told Reuters on Thursday that irregular migration of Haitians through the Caribbean "remains low", though many neighbours have evacuated citizens and bolstered their borders.

Gang violence, which has worsened for years, escalated on February 29 when unelected Prime Minister Ariel Henry travelled to Kenya to fast-track a planned international security support mission, but days later he resigned under US pressure (see related story).

With a new government yet to be installed, BINUH said, gangs have "changed their tactics", targeting attacks against public institutions and strategic infrastructure, such as the main port and largest airport.

At least 22 police buildings have been looted or set on fire and 19 police officers killed or injured, it said, while blocked supply routes are exacerbating a healthcare and hunger crisis.

The report repeated calls for faster deployment of the planned security mission, which Henry requested in 2022 and was approved over six months ago, but which has received limited pledges for both troops and funds and been put on hold pending a new government.

It also called for updated sanctions, stronger efforts to block arms trafficking, secure routes to deliver key goods and rehabilitation programmes for children recruited into gangs. ~ Reuters ~

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