Armed gangs ‘terrorize’ Haiti as cholera spreads: UN official | Human rights news

The UN coordinator in Haiti says nearly 200 murders were recorded last month as cases of cholera are now reported in eight of the 10 provinces.

Armed gangs are “terrorizing” residents of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, a United Nations official warned, as deadly violence and instability continue to complicate the country’s response to a worsening cholera outbreak.

Ulrika Richardson, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, told reporters on Wednesday that 195 murders were recorded in October — about three a day — along with 102 kidnappings.

Armed gangs that control about 60 percent of the territory in Port-au-Prince use “sexual violence, including rape … to instill fear and to punish and terrorize the local population,” Richardson said at a news conference that was broadcast to UN headquarters.

“They are doing this to expand their influence throughout the capital,” she added.

In addition to violence and political instability, Haiti is also facing a rising number of cholera cases. Richardson said Wednesday that cholera has now been recorded in eight of the country’s 10 counties.

People are treated for cholera in a tent at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Cite Soleil, an impoverished neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, on October 15, 2022 [Ricardo Arduengo/Reuters]

More than 7,200 people in Haiti have been hospitalized with cholera since Saturday and at least 155 have died since the outbreak began in early October, according to the latest figures (pdf) from Haiti’s Ministry of Health.

But UN and Haitian officials have said they fear cases will rise, especially after the end of a weeks-long gang-led blockade of a major petrol terminal that paralyzed the capital. The blockade was lifted this month and gas stations are reopening.

“The cholera situation in Haiti continues to worsen,” Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said at a separate briefing on Wednesday.

“This is a dangerous situation and PAHO is urging all countries to be vigilant as we support Haiti in providing life-saving care to patients, deploying health workers and facilitating access to fuel for health facilities,” it said. Etienne.

Haitian hospitals said in late September they had been forced to cut services because of the blockade of the Varreux fuel terminal, which led to water and electricity shortages and complicated the local response to the cholera outbreak.

Powerful Haitian gangs are vying for power in the wake of the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, which exacerbated political instability in the country.

Trucks are loaded with fuel at the Varreux terminal in Port-au-Prince
A weeks-long blockade at the Varreux fuel terminal was lifted earlier this month [Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters]

Last month, the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) said nearly half of Haitian’s population — a record 4.7 million people — was facing “acute hunger.” The violence-ravaged Cite Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince faced a particularly alarming situation.

“Currently, 65 percent of the population, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, are highly food insecure and 5 percent of them are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance,” the WFP reported on Oct. 14.

Cholera is caused by drinking water or eating food contaminated with cholera bacteria and can cause severe diarrhea, as well as vomiting, thirst, and other symptoms. It also spreads quickly in areas without adequate sewage treatment or clean drinking water.

Haiti had last reported a case of cholera more than three years ago, after a 2010 outbreak linked to United Nations peacekeepers left about 10,000 deaths and more than 820,000 infections.

PAHO has warned that as many as 500,000 Haitians are at risk of contracting cholera in the current outbreak.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *