An upsurge in deadly clashes between gangs in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, has displaced more than 5,000 people since the beginning of the month, the United Nations said on Thursday, citing preliminary estimates from its humanitarian agency, OCHA.
People are fleeing to safer areas to stay with relatives, though many others, including children, are sleeping outside or in informal shelters.
UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the newly displaced require urgent assistance and protection.
“Priority needs include sanitation, shelter, access to clean water and food”, he told journalists.
“Response efforts are underway to assist some 2,000 of the most vulnerable people. These efforts are led by the Municipality and Civil Protection, with the support of the UN.”
The violence has left several people dead, or injured, as rival gangs battle to exert control over populous areas such as Martissant, Cité-Soleil and Bel Air. Hundreds of homes and small businesses have also been burned.
The latest displacement adds to the more than 4,000 people uprooted in the last 12 months due to similar incidents.
OCHA reported that the national police force is often not able to provide security and protection during the clashes, leaving vulnerable populations to fend for themselves.
Police stations have also come under fire. One policeman was killed and another injured when armed assailants attacked all three police stations in Cité-Soleil on Saturday, stealing several weapons.
“The unprecedented level of violence and subsequent displacements is creating a host of secondary issues, such as the disruption of community-level social functioning, family separation, increased financial burdens on host families, forced school closures, loss of livelihoods and a general fear among the affected populations,” OCHA said in a situation report earlier this week.
The UN and partners are closely coordinating with the Haitian authorities to ensure humanitarian access.
In Haiti, the number of severely malnourished under-fives could more than double this year, UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Monday. Some could die if they do not receive timely treatment.