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UN: Gangs Control Much of Haiti Capital12/09 06:06


   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Close to 60% of Haiti's capital is dominated by gangs 
whose violence and sexual attacks have caused thousands to flee their homes, 
the U.N. humanitarian chief in the Caribbean nation said Thursday.

   Ulrika Richardson said that has left nearly 20,000 people in the capital 
facing "catastrophic famine-like conditions" as a cholera outbreak spreads 
throughout Haiti.

   Richardson painted a grim picture of a country in a downward spiral, with 
half its population in urgent need of food assistance as the number of cholera 
deaths has risen to 283. She said close to 12,000 people have been hospitalized 
with the disease since Oct. 2, and there are now a total of more than 14,000 
suspected cholera cases in eight of the country's 10 regions.

   She said all but 1,000 of the 20,000 Haitians facing starvation are in the 
capital, Port-au-Prince, mainly in the Cite Soleil slum controlled by the 
gangs. Richardson said insecurity has led to "massive displacement," especially 
in the capital, where 155,000 people have fled their homes.

   She said at a news conference that the gangs are using "very terrifying 
levels of sexual violence as a weapon" to keep people under control, instill 
fear and punishment.

   She said gang battles over territory and their criminal actions are tearing 
society apart and escalating insecurity.

   Political instability has simmered in Haiti since last year's still-unsolved 
assassination of President Jovenal Mose, 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.

   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.

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