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Haiti sees surge of deaths amid instability crisis: UN report

People run after hearing gunshots in Port-au-Price, Haiti, on April 13, 2024
People run after hearing gunshots in Port-au-Price, Haiti, on April 13, 2024 - Copyright AFP/File Clarens SIFFROY
People run after hearing gunshots in Port-au-Price, Haiti, on April 13, 2024 - Copyright AFP/File Clarens SIFFROY

A soaring wave of gang violence in Haiti left 1,660 people dead and some 850 injured in the first three months of 2024, a UN report said Friday.

The death toll represents a more than 50 percent increase over the previous quarter, according to the report by the UN mission in Haiti (BINUH).

The Caribbean nation has been ravaged for decades by poverty, natural disasters, political instability and escalating gang violence.

But a full-fledged crisis broke out in late February, when gangs which control large areas of the capital Port-au-Prince launched a coordinated campaign seeking to push out Haiti’s unelected prime minister, Ariel Henry.

In the ensuing violence, “more than 4,600 inmates escaped from the two main prisons in the capital, and at least 22 police stations, sub-police stations and other police buildings were looted or set on fire, and 19 police officers were killed or injured,” the UN report said.

Henry, who was out of the country when the wave of violence broke out, announced on March 11 that he agreed to step down and would be replaced by a ruling transitional council.

It wasn’t until a month later that the council was formally established, but the crisis has gone unabated.

“Between 1 January and 31 March, 1,660 persons (1,347 men, 273 women and 40 children) were killed, and another 845 (624 men, 179 women and 42 children) were injured by gang violence,” a BINUH spokesman told AFP.

In the last quarter of 2023, there were 1,104 killings recorded and 532 injuries.

The deaths in early 2024 also include some 141 people killed by “self-defense” groups, who in the past year have begun taking the law into their own hands as the country’s security forces find themselves overwhelmed and outgunned by the gangs.

The UN report noted however that kidnappings for ransom had fallen by 37 percent across the country from the prior quarter.

At least 438 people were kidnapped, most of them in the Artibonite department north of the capital where gangs prey on public transport passengers, the report said.

Gangs have nonetheless continued to resort to sexual violence against residents of “rival” neighborhoods, the report said, highlighting in particular gang rapes suffered by young girls.

BINUH chief Maria Isabel Salvador said the gang violence was severely limiting access to essential services and called for the speeding up of the deployment of a UN-backed international security mission to be led by Kenya.

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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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