Gangs are continually encroaching on Haiti’s central region with reports of sexual assault, kidnappings, and killings occurring in the Caribbean nation, the Associated Press reports.
North of the capital city of Port-au-Prince in Lower Artibonite, numerous gangs have run amuck in several communities with minimal law enforcement and “a lack of basic government institutions”, the U.N. Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner noted in its report.
“A climate of fear reigns in Lower Artibonite, where murders, sexual violence, theft, destruction of property, and other abuses are committed against the population on an almost daily basis,” the report read.
From January 2022 to October 2023, the ongoing gang violence has claimed the lives of 1,690 people, and 1,118 have been kidnapped.
In June, the International Organization for Migration reported that gang violence has displaced 165.000 Haitians and has brought international aid to a halt.
Gangs also have blocked irrigation systems, attacked agricultural lands, stolen crops and livestock, and charged financially strapped farmers to pay for access to vital resources.
“The consequences are disastrous for the populations affected but have provoked far too little reaction from national authorities and international actors,” the report continued. “The longer it takes to deploy a specialized international force, the more robust the response will have to be.”
In April, the World Food Program reported that farmers were forced to flee their land and 12,000 acres of crops were lost as a result. Additionally, half of Artibonite’s population, which is approximately 7 million people, are on the brink of starvation.
One of the critical recommendations of the U.N. was deploying more law enforcement officers to help stabilize the region.
“In the past, lynchings could be mitigated or even controlled by local, police or judicial authorities,” the report stated. “This is no longer the case, given that these institutions are virtually no longer functional or present in the areas where they occur.”
Over the past few years, Haiti has been the subject of many devastating blows over the past several years including the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.
In October, Haitian police arrested former government official Joseph Félix Badio Thursday (Oct.19) for his alleged role in Moïse’s death.
Badio, who was among a group of vigilantes suspected of being involved in the deadly plot, was a fugitive from justice since fleeing to Port-au-Prince in 2021.
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