new york - The United Nations and the government of Haiti reiterated their appeal Tuesday for an international force to quickly deploy to the island nation to help subdue an unprecedented level of gang violence that has terrorized the population.
'Gangs have increasingly resorted to the deliberate killing of men, women and children with snipers positioned on rooftops,' the U.N.'s top official in Haiti, Helen La Lime, told the U.N. Security Council. 'Dozens of women and children as young as 10 years old have been brutally raped, as a tactic to spread fear and destroy the social fabric of communities under the control of rival gangs.'
She said two coalitions of gangs - the G9 coalition and G-Pep - have caused unprecedented levels of violence as they fight over turf in the capital's largest slum, Cite Soleil. Gangs reportedly control about 60% of Port-au-Prince.
In early October, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres backed a request from the Haitian government to send an international specialized armed force to the Caribbean Island nation to address spiraling insecurity and a deepening humanitarian crisis.
Hopes that the United States or Canada might lead the force have not materialized, although both countries have sent equipment to assist the Haitian National Police. There has been little interest in contributing forces among the wider international community.
FILE - A woman guides a child past a demonstration against increasing violence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 29, 2022.
Meanwhile, the Haitian people continue to suffer, with killings and kidnappings rising and the armed gangs blocking access to food, water and health services.
'Close to 5 million people are facing conditions of acute hunger across the country, and while 90% of schools are now operating, thousands of children, especially those living in gang-affected areas, are yet to start the school year,' U.N. Special Representative La Lime told the council. 'And there are increasing reports of minors being recruited to serve in gangs.'
Haiti's U.N. envoy echoed the urgency of the situation, saying there is no room for complacency.
'This is an imperative right now,' Ambassador Antonio Rodrigue said. 'If we overcome the gangs, we will restore order and peace by implementing the national security plan. We cannot wait, and the security situation could worsen any day, and worsen the fate of the people who are already suffering terribly.'
Haiti is also facing a political crisis. As of January 9, the terms of the last 10 democratically elected senators expired, meaning there is not a single elected official left in the country.
Rodrigue said without security, the country cannot hold free and fair elections to install a new government that could tackle the myriad challenges.
The foreign minister of neighboring Dominican Republic also appealed to the council to act, saying his country is having trouble coping with the spillover effects of Haiti's crisis.
'The Dominican government is compelled to the take necessary measures to curb the impact of violence and institutional deterioration in Haiti and the impact that might have on our national territory,' Minister Roberto Alvarez Gil told the council.
He said that includes irregular migration, smuggling of goods and trafficking of people, weapons and drugs.
On a positive note, council members welcomed the signing on December 21 of a National Consensus Agreement by a broad spectrum of Haitian political figures, civil society members, clergy, trade unions and the private sector on a way forward on elections.