Haiti's capital almost completely cut off by blockades as gang violence intensifies in Port-au-Prince Haiti's capital almost completely cut off by blockades as gang violence intensifies in Port-au-Prince 

UNICEF chief warns of ‘catastrophic’ situation in Haiti

The Director General of UNICEF says more than three million children in Haiti are in need of humanitarian assistance, as conditions in the country continue to worsen.

By Christopher Wells

“The situation in Haiti is catastrophic, and it grows worse by the day,” UNICEF Director General Catherine Russell told the UN Security Council during a briefing on the humanitarian situation in the country.

The head of the UN Children’s Fund presented a raft of statistics documenting the deplorable conditions in the country: 5.5 million people, including almost 2/3 of the nation’s children in need of humanitarian aid; 2.7 million people, including 1.6 million women and children in areas under the control of armed groups; 2500 people killed, injured, or kidnapped thus far in 2024; some 180,000 children internally displaced. 

Russell also noted the rise of violent armed groups “destroying livelihoods and restricting access to services”; while communities, forced to defend themselves, leave families and children cut off from aid and essential services.

Further, some 80,000 cases of cholera are making a desperate situation even worse. 

UNICEF still reaching vulnerable children and families

Nonetheless, Russell said, “despite the risks and operational complexity, our organizations and partners are still reaching the most vulnerable children and families with lifesaving services.”

She implored UN member states to increase flexible humanitarian funding, while calling on the Security Council to reiterate the need for adherence to international law; facilitate impartial, independent humanitarian action in Haiti; and prioritize protecting people.

At the same time, Russell highlighted the need to train members of Multi-National Security Support Mission to ensure minimal use of force, prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, and assist children who are involved in violent gangs. 

Time for action long overdue

“The time for action is long overdue,” Russell said. “The Haitian people need an immediate scale up in both regional and international support, without which the situation could become unrecoverable.”

At the same time, she warned that “even if all the rights steps are taken to quell this crisis, it will not be solved quickly,” while insisting on the need to deliver comprehensive political and financial support, now and over the long term” while working “hand-in-hand with the Haitian people to develop the innovative solutions needed to deliver their vision of a peaceful, prosperous society.”

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24 April 2024, 15:16