Diaspora

UN human rights chief warns Haiti is on 'the verge of an abyss' amid violent unrest – The Voice Online

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The French-speaking Caribbean island has been plagued by disruption for decades
HAITI NEEDS “urgent and sustained action” or it could be on “the verge of an abyss,” a United Nations human rights chief has warned.
Mr Volker Türk said that the Caribbean island only stands a chance of recovering if they tackle the root causes of overlapping crises crippling the country. 
The French-speaking Caribbean island most notably descended into chao after a devastating earthquake in 2010 and in August 2021 as well as the assassination of the former President, Jovenel Moïse, when he was ambushed at his home in July 2021. 
Bouts of deadly violence erupted as news of his killing broke and local residents were urged to stay indoors for their safety. 
The High Commissioner called on the Haitian Government to provide a firm commitment to accountability and the rule of law following decades of “systematic corruption and rampant impunity”.
He urged for solutions to a “protracted, multifaceted crisis,” adding that the French-speaking island is being ravaged by the worst human rights and humanitarian situation it has seen in decades.
Mr. Türk said: “People are being killed by firearms, they are dying because they do not have access to safe drinking water, food, healthcare, women are being gang raped with impunity. The levels of insecurity and the dire humanitarian situation have been devastating for the people of Haiti.”
Gang violence remains an ongoing threat to the capital Port-au-Prince and other regions on the island with ​​71 people being killed in mid-October, because of turf wars between rival gangs in Croix-des-Bouquets, according to reports by the Human Rights Service of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti.
Dozens of women are understood to have been raped amid the bloodshed as the country continues to spiral.
The High Commissioner said: “Kidnappings and sexual violence by gang members are being used as weapons to inflict severe pain and instil fear among the population.
“There is a desperate need to tackle the root causes of inequality and violence, including that have crippled the country’s development for decades.”  
A record 4.7 million Haitians, which is nearly half the population, are experiencing “catastrophic” acute hunger as food insecurity continues to climb. 
Haiti’s main fuel terminal and seaports have been obstructed by heavily armed gangs, making drinking water, food and medicine harder to come by.
A deadly outbreak of cholera has so far taken dozens of lives and further 2, 600 cases of the disease had been reported – half of them are understood to be children. 
Rising levels of poor sanitation and a depletion of water supplies has been blamed for the disease running rampant. 
The United Nations has also reported that the fragile country has been rocked by violence demonstration protests since August of this year as thousands of protestors take to the streets.
It is alleged that police officers are to blame for the disproportionate use of force after  at least 54 people were killed amid the turmoil. Leading political figures and journalists have also lost their lives.
Mr. Türk said: “Police must respect the principles of precaution, necessity and proportionality at all times when using force. Prompt, thorough and effective investigations need to be established and those responsible for unnecessary or disproportionate use of force must be held accountable.”
The Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, which meets under the umbrella of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), urged for international support for Haitians living among the humanitarian crisis.
“We are alarmed that the continuing blockade by armed gangs of roads, ports, and the main oil terminal, will lead to many preventable deaths because of lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation, basic health care and food”, the group said in a statement. 
“Pregnant women and their newborns are significantly at risk. Most poor households, already made vulnerable by inflation and low-paying jobs, continue to suffer disproportionately. Alarmingly, hunger has reached a catastrophic level in the capital’s Cité Soleil neighbourhood.”
The Group of 21 nations backed the support by the Government, the UN and other bodies to “to address the humanitarian needs of the population and mount an effective cholera response based on the national authorities’ experience and expertise”.
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