Gangs hit central Haiti
Port-au-Prince.- The central rural region of Haiti, previously known for its tranquility and vital agricultural role, is now under siege by gangs, as detailed in a recent UN report. This area, particularly in the southern part of the Bajo Artibonito department north of Port-au-Prince, is suffering due to the limited presence of police and government institutions.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reports that the region is overwhelmed by frequent murders, sexual violence, theft, property destruction, and other abuses against residents.
The report highlights alarming statistics: from January 2022 to October 2023, over 1,690 people were killed and more than 1,118 kidnapped in this region. Gang violence has displaced approximately 22,000 people, including over half who are children, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Agriculture, a key sector in the region, has been severely impacted. Gangs have stolen crops and livestock, disrupted irrigation systems, and taken control of agricultural lands, demanding payments from farmers for access. The World Food Programme notes that nearly 5,000 hectares (around 12,000 acres) of crops were lost as farmers were forced to abandon their fields. Consequently, hunger has surged, putting nearly half of Artibonite’s population, about 1.7 million people, at risk of famine.
The UN emphasizes the urgent need for a response to this crisis. It expresses concern about the delay in deploying a foreign armed force, led by Kenya, which was sanctioned by the UN Security Council last month to assist Haiti in regaining control from gangs.
The report criticizes the lack of action from both national authorities and international actors, warning that the longer the delay in deploying this force, the more forceful the response will need to be. This comes as a Kenyan court recently extended an injunction against sending police to Haiti, despite parliamentary approval of the deployment.