At least 89 people have died in a week of gang violence in the Haitian capital, a human rights group said Wednesday, as rising prices, fuel shortages and gang violence hasten a sharp deterioration in the security situation in Port-au-Prince.
Riots erupted on July 7 between two rival factions in Cité Soleil, a poor and densely populated area of Port-au-Prince.
For almost a week, gunfire crackled in the slums with understaffed and ill-equipped police standing by, while international humanitarian organizations struggled to deliver essential food and medical care to the victims.
Thousands of families living in the slums that have sprung up here over the past four decades have had no choice but to hide in their homes, unable to get food or water, and dozens of residents have been killed by stray bullets due to the many sheet metal houses.
“At least 89 people were killed and 16 missing” in last week’s violence, the National Human Rights Advocacy Network said in a statement, adding that 74 more people were shot or stabbed.
Mumuza Muhindo, head of the local mission Doctors Without Borderson Wednesday urged all combatants to allow medics to travel safely to Brooklyn, the Cité Soleil area hardest hit by the violence.
Despite the danger, Muhindo said his group has been operating on an average of 15 patients a day since last Friday.
He said his colleagues saw charred and rotting corpses along the road leading to the Brooklyn area, possibly either gang members killed in clashes or people trying to escape.
“This is a real battlefield,” Muhindo said. “It’s impossible to estimate how many people were killed.”
Cité Soleil is home to an oil terminal that supplies the capital and the entire north of Haiti, so the clashes have had a devastating effect on the region’s economy and people’s daily lives.
Gas stations in Port-au-Prince have no gas to sell, causing black market prices to skyrocket.
Outraged motorcycle taxi drivers built barricades on some of the city’s main roads on Wednesday, and residents were only able to make short motorcycle rides within their neighborhoods, AFP journalists at the scene said.
This further complicates their already dangerous situation: over the past few years, Haiti has been hit by a wave of mass kidnappings, with gangs kidnapping people from all walks of life, including foreigners, from the streets.
Emboldened by police inaction, the gangs have become more brazen in recent weeks. There were at least 155 kidnappings in June, compared with 118 in May, according to a report released Wednesday by the Center for Human Rights Analysis and Research.
“Significant increase in hunger”
Dreadful poverty and widespread violence are forcing many Haitians to flee to the Dominican Republic, on which Haiti shares a border, or to the United States.
With no money and no visas, many of them risk their lives boarding makeshift boats in the hope of reaching Florida.
Many end up in Cuba or the Bahamas, or the American authorities stop them at sea and return them home.
More than 1,200 undocumented migrants were sent to Haiti in June alone, according to government figures.
When they return, they will have to face the poverty they tried to avoid and 20% annual inflation, with economists warning it could rise to 30% due to the global impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“We are seeing a significant increase in hunger in the capital and in the south of the country, with Port-au-Prince hit the hardest,” Jean-Martin Bauer, director of the World Food Program, said on Tuesday.
The UN estimates that nearly half of Haiti’s 11 million people are already facing food insecurity, including 1.3 million facing a pre-famine humanitarian emergency.
But the violence is also hindering efforts to help them: already WFP, trying to bypass areas of Port-au-Prince, seeks to deliver aid to the south and north of the country by air and sea.