UN warns Haiti ‘on verge of abyss’

UNITED NATIONS (CMC) — The United Nations has warned that Haiti is “on the verge of abyss” as conflicts rage, and international dialogue remains “the only hope for peace” in the French-speaking Caribbean Community country.

“It’s hard to overstate the extent to which the security situation in Haiti collapsed in 2022,” said the UN in its review of 2022, noting that “practically nowhere in the capital, Port-au-Prince, could be deemed safe, as rival gangs fought over territory, terrorising increasingly desperate citizens, already struggling to survive a humanitarian catastrophe”.

The UN noted that, in October, the UN Special Representative Helen La Lime welcomed the sanctions regime adopted by the UN Security Council, which targets gang leaders and their backers.

She told the Security Council that even if a political solution could be found, it would not be sufficient to address the crisis.

The UN said La Lime indicated her support for the mobilisation of a specialised military force, while the US permanent representative to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the Security Council in October that the US and Mexico are working on a resolution which will authorise a “non-UN international security assistance mission”, which would help in the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid.

With armed gangs in charge of key transport routes in Haiti, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Haiti, Jean-Martin Bauer, warned that the country could see famine conditions, unless a robust humanitarian aid plan is put in place.

Bauer believes that Haiti is facing an unprecedented crisis, which could get even worse. For this reason, he said last month that there is no time to waste.

“It’s difficult to believe that a mere two hours’ flight from Miami, a staggering 4.7 million people – half of Haiti’s population – are in the throes of a food crisis. In the Cité Soleil neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, 19,000 people are suffering in the ‘catastrophe’ level on the global scale for measuring food insecurity.

“In the 1990s, there was a series of coups and a trade embargo; people risked their lives to leave on boats,” he added.

“Free market policies ruined Haiti’s smallholder farmers and left the country heavily reliant on food imports.”

Bauer said a succession of disasters followed, including the 2010 earthquake and cholera outbreak, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and the Southern earthquake of 2021.

“Things are now at a breaking point. This crisis will not pass – it needs renewed and robust humanitarian assistance.”

The UN said that, in September, protests and widespread looting erupted, and that roadblocks brought the country to a standstill – what Haitians call a “peyi lok” (lockdown).

Armed groups had seized the main fuel import terminal, blocking flows of diesel, the economy’s lifeblood, the UN said.

It said humanitarians also came under attack; two of WFP’s warehouses were looted, depriving thousands of essential food assistance.

For WFP staff, making it to the office meant navigating roadblocks and weathering threats, the UN said, adding “sadly, the people of Haiti have become conditioned to violence and hunger”.

“But while emergency rations and airlifts will keep people alive, they won’t offer a future,” the UN warned, noting that while armed groups are no longer in control of the Varrreux fuel terminal, they still hold swathes of the city.

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