‘The world must act now to stem the violence,’ says UN chief in plea for help for Haiti

The United Nations chief called on the world on Thursday to extend a lifeline to the people of Haiti by filling the financial gap of an ongoing humanitarian appeal and to help the country combat ongoing gang violence by providing emergency personnel. uniform to a multinational force.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres also called on Haiti’s social and political leaders to accelerate their efforts towards a desperately needed political solution, warning that “the Haitian people are trapped in a living nightmare.”

“Taken together, these three vital and simultaneous steps are fundamental to breaking Haiti’s cycle of suffering – addressing the dramatic humanitarian and security challenges – and forging a political path out of the crisis,” said António Guterres.

Guterres’ impassioned appeal came hours before the UN Security Council is due to meet on the situation in Haiti and discuss the ongoing crisis before deciding later this month whether to renew the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti.

Guterres visited Haiti on Saturday and heard first-hand accounts of the ongoing gang rapes of women and girls, the dire humanitarian situation where nearly half the population is going hungry, and how the protracted political crisis continues with no apparent solution. After his visit, he traveled to Trinidad and Tobago where he spent an hour and a half discussing the situation in Haiti, hoping to gain the support of Caribbean leaders for the deployment of a “robust” international force.

He told leaders that barely 23% of an ongoing UN humanitarian appeal for Haiti had been funded and called it “a tragedy within a tragedy”.

Thursday, he developed the current reality and challenges of the 12 million inhabitants of Haiti.

“Brutal gangs have a stranglehold on the Haitian people,” he told reporters. “Port-au-Prince is surrounded by armed groups blocking roads, controlling access to food and health care and undermining humanitarian assistance…I have heard appalling stories from women and girls victims of gang rapes and people burned alive. »

In his latest report, which the Security Council will consider on Thursday afternoon, Guterres said the number of homicides in the first six months of this year increased by almost 70% compared to the same period last year. last.

Weeks after Haitians began taking justice into their own hands with vigilante killings and mob lynchings, some of the gangs have now launched their own movement — “Zam Pale,” or My Gun Speaks — to fight back. .

Nearly three dozen police officers have been killed this year at the hands of violent gangs, and dozens of police stations have been attacked, including 26 in the region that includes the metropolis of Port-au-Prince. The Secretary-General called it “an alarming new cycle of violence which, if not urgently addressed, is likely to escalate through continued mobilization, arming and recruitment, especially young people”.

The report, which details other gang-related attacks on women and children, and the prison system, will serve as a backdrop when the UN Security Council discusses the situation in Haiti.

“The world must act now to stem violence and instability,” António Guterres said at the press conference. “Predatory gangs use kidnappings and sexual violence as weapons to terrorize entire communities.”

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