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Surging gun violence, other crises worsen hunger in Haiti

Haitians protesting high prices and shortages burn tires on a street of Port-au-Prince on July 13, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

A week of gun battles between rival gangs in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, has left at least 89 people dead, among them children, and led thousands to flee their homes.

The fighting erupted on July 7 between two rival factions in Cite Soleil, an impoverished and densely populated neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.

The violence is causing a serious safety crisis and making it harder for people to access and afford food and water as gangs have blocked roads and seized control of some neighborhoods. Thousands of families living in slums had to shelter in place.

Hunger is set to worsen in Haiti also amid high costs of food and rising inflation, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has warned. Haiti imports 70 percent of its food needs and is suffering from the global food crisis linked to the conflict in Ukraine.

“Inflation here has been running at 26 percent,” the WFP said. “Food inflation has been 52 percent; this is according to the Haitian Government and the analysis of the food basket they do here.”

“More than one million people in the capital are already food insecure and deliveries of homegrown supplies such as bananas cannot get there by road because the trucks are at risk of getting shot at or held up along the way,” said Jean-Martin Bauer, WFP’s Haiti country director.

The violence has forced WFP to use maritime routes as an alternative to send aid to the country’s southern and northern areas, while humanitarian workers must be transported by air with the UN’s Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS).

According to WFP, 4.4 million Haitians need immediate food assistance, representing almost half the population, including 1.3 million who are facing a humanitarian emergency, according to UN calculations.

Haiti has experienced a deteriorating security situation since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, which worsened an already fraught political situation in the Caribbean nation.

 

A political deadlock persists as the country’s de facto leader, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, insists he can remain in his post until elections can be held. In September last year, Henry indefinitely postponed presidential and legislative elections, as well as a constitutional referendum, amid the crisis.

Between April 24 and May 16 alone, the UN reported that at least 92 people unaffiliated with gangs and some 96 others alleged to be gang members were killed during coordinated armed attacks in Port-au-Prince. Meanwhile, kidnappings for ransom have soared.

The violence is also preventing thousands of Haitian children from going to school, the UN said last week. “Since 24 April, half a million children have lost access to education in Port-au-Prince where some 1,700 schools are closed, according to government figures,” it said.


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