UN aid chief: Gangs control about 60 per cent of Haiti's capital

An armed civilian carries a weapon on during a shootout between rival gangs to take control of the Croix-des-Bossales market in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, November 21, 2018. [AP photo]

Political instability has simmered in Haiti since last year's still-unsolved assassination of President Jovenal Moise, who had faced protests calling for his resignation over corruption charges.

Daily life in Haiti began to spin out of control in September just hours after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said fuel subsidies would be eliminated, causing prices to double. A gang led by Jimmy "Barbecue" Cherizier, a former police officer, blocked the Varreux fuel terminal, setting off a fuel crisis.

The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions on Cherizier on Oct. 21, and he announced on Nov. 6 that his G9 gang federation was lifting the blockade.

But despite the availability of fuel, Richardson said, the humanitarian, security and political situation is worsening, saying that "everyone is affected by the violence."

Hentry and Haiti's Council of Ministers sent an urgent appeal Oct. 7 calling for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to dispatch an international military force to tackle Haiti's violence and alleviate its humanitarian crisis.

Richardson said U.N. Security Council members have held intensive discussions since then focusing on the "potential leadership and potential composition of such a force," but so far there has been no decision.

"What is very important here is that the gang violence needs to be addressed," she said.

G9 coalition gang members ride a motorcycle through the Wharf Jeremy street market in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 6, 2021. [AP photo]

While discussions are continuing in the Security Council, Richardson said the United Nations and a lot of countries are helping Haiti's national police force - "and they need a lot of support in terms of equipment and training."

In mid-November, the U.N. launched an emergency appeal for $145 million to respond to Haiti's cholera outbreak and rising hunger, but so far it has received just $23.5 million, she said.

Richardson said the U.N. will be appealing for $719 million for Haiti for 2023, double the amount this year, because of the dramatic deterioration of the humanitarian situation.

On a positive note, she said, schools are being reopened at the level of about 53% throughout the country, mainly in the south. Many of the 4 million children in Haiti haven't had any proper education since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, she said.