The United Nations (UN) wants to assemble a multinational security force to assist the Haitian National Police in combatting a recent escalation of violence.
UN officials say that Haiti is facing a multidimensional crisis with gang violence at the center. Currently, according to the UN, armed gangs either control or exercise influence over about 80 percent of the capital city Port-au-Prince.
According to a recent UN report, “violence is also spreading to departments beyond the capital. Over the past few months, a significant increase in serious crimes, such as homicide, kidnapping and rape, has been reported. Indiscriminate, large-scale attacks against entire neighborhoods and their residents have displaced almost 130,000 people.”
The spread of gang violence has sparked protests against the government, as well as a surge in vigilante groups.
Haitian gangs benefit from chronic instability and weak state institutions, which has allowed them to overpower police. The U.S. is the primary source of sophisticated weapons and munitions being trafficked into Haiti, arriving most often by sea from Miami. In some instances, weapons have been smuggled in through the Dominican Republic.
Gangs have shown increasing brutality as they mutilate and burn bodies on public streets, then share photos of the carnage on social media.
The UN High Commissioner’s Report on Haiti says that prior to the current crisis, most Haitians lived on less than $3 per day. Nearly 90 percent of Haitians live below the poverty line, with a third living in extreme poverty. According to the UN, poverty, inequality, lack of protection, and corruption are among the factors driving the surge in violence.
That violence has “also prompted numerous health workers to leave the country, further increasing the lack of health services to the population,” the report states.
“Hospitals face shortages of equipment and personnel due to the violence; the costs of importing essential drugs, surgical tools and oxygen tanks have skyrocketed,” the report adds.
Last week, the U.S. State Department announced it would be sending $65 million to help strengthen the Haitian police. The U.S. has already sent more than $120 million since July of 2021.
“We all know that the situation in Haiti is dire: more than 2,000 killings in the first six months of this year; more than 1,000 kidnappings in the same period; over five million Haitians who urgently need humanitarian assistance; tens of thousands of Haitians facing catastrophic hunger; nearly 60,000 suspected cholera cases. Nearly half of those cases are children,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“When we recite these statistics, I think we have to remember what they mean, what the reality on the ground looks like, for the Haitian people, because it’s easy to get lost in numbers and abstractions,” he added. “These are real lives, and the effects are profound.”
The State Department says it is prepared to support a multinational security mission and is calling on the UN Security Council to pass a resolution authorizing the mission.