Gang-plagued Haiti is sinking further into bloodshed and lawlessness, the United Nations chief warned in a report Wednesday, urging the international community to provide security and financial aid to the troubled Caribbean nation.
Brutal gangs are tightening their grip on Haiti, with snipers shooting indiscriminately from rooftops and people burned alive, which prompts vigilante groups to respond with more violence.
Violence has spiked since last week, when the leader of the powerful G9 gang alliance Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier said he would overthrow the government by force and called a broader truce of metropolitan area gangs through a new alliance called “Living Together”.
The announcement sparked internal feuds. Late on Tuesday the leader of a G9 alliance gang was killed by other alliance members near Fontaine Hospital in the capital, according to local media reports.
“Gang-related violence has continued to increase in intensity and brutality, with gangs expanding their control within and beyond Port-au-Prince,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a report published on Wednesday.
“Sexual violence, including collective rape, continue to be used by gangs to terrorise populations under the control of rival gangs,” he added.
The report comes as members of the UN Security Council debate the mandate of an international security mission, requested by Haitian authorities, to support the underfunded and understaffed police force, which will be led by Kenya.
For months there have been calls for an international force to intervene, and earlier this month the United States said up to a dozen countries had offered support while pledging its own logistical assistance.
Nearly 2,800 murders were recorded between October 2022 and June 2023, including nearly 80 targeting minors, according to the report.
Kidnappings for ransom are also on the rise, with nearly 1,500 people abducted over the past year, including 55 minors, the report said, adding that the true number could be even higher as families don’t always report such crimes to the authorities, preferring to negotiate directly with kidnappers.
Despite the adoption of a sanctions regime and a targeted arms embargo against Haiti, “experts assess that the illicit trafficking of weapons and ammunition has continued unabated,” the report said.
As a result, police are outnumbered and outgunned, while prosecutors and judges are afraid to go after gang members.
“Stabilising the security situation in Haiti will require significant international support, not only to the national police to restore security, but also in the areas of corrections, the justice system, custom control and border management,” Guterres said.
He urged world leaders to show “significant political will and commitment to securing adequate, predictable and sustained financing to preserve institutional gains in the long term.”
Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has been hit by a stream of economic, political, health and other crises in recent years.
Haiti this year joined Somalia and other countries already facing or projected to face starvation. More than 4 million people in Haiti are experiencing high levels of acute hunger, and 1.4 million are at emergency levels, according to the UN World Food Program.
Additional reporting by Associated Press and Reuters