Haiti gang violence kills 90, country slips into anarchy


A recent spike in gang violence has left nearly 90 people dead and dozens injured, according to human rights advocates. (Photo: AFP/Farooq NAEEM)

At least 89 people have been killed in a week of gang violence in Port-au-Prince, a rights group reported on Wednesday, as rising costs, fuel shortages, and gang warfare exacerbate a severe deterioration in the city's security.

Cite Soleil, an impoverished and heavily populated neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, exploded in conflict on July 7 between two competing gangs.

As gunfire rang out in the slums for nearly a week, the police, who lacked personnel and equipment, did not act. At the same time, international humanitarian agencies tried to bring essential food supplies and treat the injured.

Thousands of families living in the slums that have risen here over the past four decades were forced to hide inside their homes, unable to acquire food or water, and hundreds of residents were killed by stray gunfire, as many of their dwellings were made of sheet metal.

In the past week's violence, at least 89 people were dead, and 16 others were missing, according to a statement from the National Human Rights Defense Network, which also noted that 74 people had gunshot or knife wounds.

Mumuza Muhindo, the leader of Doctors Without Borders' local mission, requested all fighters on Wednesday to grant doctors safe access to Cite Soleil's most violent neighborhood, Brooklyn.

Muhindo reported that his group had operated on an average of 15 patients each day since last Friday, despite the danger.

His colleagues have reportedly observed they burned and decaying corpses along a road heading to the Brooklyn area, possibly gang members slain in the battles or those attempting to leave.

Muhindo stated, "It's a genuine battlefield." It is impossible to quantify the number of fatalities.

Fuel crisis

Cite Soleil is home to an oil port that supplies the capital and all of northern Haiti. Therefore the confrontations have wreaked havoc on the region's economy and the lives of its inhabitants.

Gas stations in Port-au-Prince are out of gas, leading prices to rise on the black market.

According to AFP journalists on the scene, outraged motorcycle cab drivers constructed roadblocks on some of the city's main routes on Wednesday, restricting residents to short motorbike journeys within their districts.

This further complicates an already difficult situation: for the past several years, gangs in Haiti have been abducting many individuals, including foreigners, from the streets.

In recent weeks, gangs have gotten increasingly bold due to police inaction. According to a report released by the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights on Wednesday, at least 155 kidnappings occurred during June, compared to 118 in May.

'A significant increase in hunger'

Many Haitians are fleeing to the Dominican Republic, which shares a border with Haiti, or the United States due to the crushing poverty and pervasive violence.

Many risk their lives by boarding improvised boats in an attempt to reach Florida without money or permits.

Many arrive in Cuba or the Bahamas or are sent home by American officials who intercept them at sea.

According to government statistics, more than 1,200 unauthorized migrants were returned to Haiti in June alone.

When they return, they will be confronted with the poverty they sought to flee and an annual inflation rate of 20 percent, with economists predicting it could reach 30 percent due to the global repercussions of Russia's war in Ukraine.

On Tuesday, Jean-Martin Bauer, head of the World Food Program, stated, "Hunger is increasing significantly in the capital and in the south of the country, with Port-au-Prince being the hardest hit."

According to UN assessments, about half of Haiti's 11 million inhabitants face food shortages, including 1.3 million who face a humanitarian emergency, which precedes starvation.

But the violence impedes efforts to assist them: the WFP is already attempting to transfer aid to the country's south and north by air and sea while avoiding Port-au-Prince.

Publish : 2022-07-14 11:57:00

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