UN Secretary General says Haiti is a “tragic situation”

United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, Monday described Haiti as a “tragic situation” and appealed to the international community to do more to help the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country overcome its present political and socio-economic conditions.

Guterres, who held talks with Prime Minister Andrew Holness as he wrapped up a two-day visit to the island, told a news conference that Haiti faces dramatic humanitarian needs, a political system that is paralysed and levels of violence by gangs “that are absolutely appalling.

“The number of people killed, the number of people unable to live their lives, the dramatic food insecurity problems are indeed something that needs stronger commitment from the international community,” Guterres told reporters.

Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Volker Türk, said Haiti needs “urgent” support from the international community to stop the suffering of people at the hands of violent gangs who have been shooting people at random and burning them alive.

The UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) said in the month of April alone, more than 600 people were killed in violence in the country’s capital. This follows the killing of at least 846 people in the first three months of 2023.

BINUH said that overall, the number of victims of killings, injuries and kidnappings increased by 28 per cent in the first quarter of the year, with a total of 1,634 cases reported.

Guterres told reporters there is also apolitical problem in Haiti and that there is need to bring the different stakeholders together “to find a political way for a legitimate government to be recognised …and we need to address the violence of the gangs”.

Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in July 2021 and since then there has been no elections, which are long overdue, to elect his replacement. Seeveral people, including former Colombian soldiers and United states based Haitians have been detained in connection with the killing.

Guterres said he had made a proposal to the UN Security Council a few months ago in the context of the support needed by Haiti and “to have the presence of a robust international police force to crack down on the gangs and in parallel with the political process to create the conditions for Haiti to be able to address its dramatic situation.

“This has been a difficult exercise. It has been difficult to mobilise the will of those that have the best capacity to lead this operation and it has been difficult to create also the political conditions to make it easier for  different countries to accept and be part of this action.”

Guterres paid tribute to Jamaica for  being among the first countries that “immediately expressed its readiness to be part of this operation and secondly Jamaica in the context of CARICOM (Caribbean Community) is involved in a very important political process and to bring together the various stakeholders to find a way out of this political crisis”.

Guterres said he is aware of the visit paid by CARICOM leaders to Haiti and the pending visit to Port au Prince, adding “I want to express my full support to the initiatives of Jamaica and CARICOM and I want to once again ask the international community to understand that an effective solidarity with Haiti is not only a matter of generosity, it is essentially a matter of …self interest because the present situation of Haiti reflects a threat to the security of the whole region and further afield,” Guterres added.

Prime Minister Holness said he was convinced that the pleas to help Haiti are not falling on deaf ears.

“It is being heard and listened to. The question is the pace of action and as the Secretary General pointed out countries who would want to support would also want to be assured that there is a political process in place that could yield an end result in a time frame that makes sense in terms of making a commitment.

“And so there is a step that has to be taken and it is building towards political consensus and CARICOM and Jamaica is playing an active role in trying to get to that consensus point so that the end game of any form of support is clear”

Holness said “we are making some progress in that regard but clearly there should be more tangible effort into what we are doing in terms of supporting Haiti”.(CMC)