Spread the love

Avellon Williams 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI- On Saturday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Haiti, saying “This is not the time to forget” the Caribbean nation mired in overlapping security, political, and economic issues.

As the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country has been wracked by gang violence, a worsening public health situation, and political instability, the world body’s leader has raised the alarm.

“I’m in Port-au-Prince to express my full solidarity with the Haitian people and call on the international community to continue to stand with Haiti, including with a robust international force to assist the Haitian National Police,” Guterres on Twitter a few minutes after his arrival.

“This is not the time to forget Haiti.”

According to Guterres’ spokesperson, he will meet with Prime Minister Ariel Henry as well as other political leaders and members of civil society during his first visit to Haiti as UN secretary-general.

In the wake of Haiti’s 2016 national elections, the United Nations and Henry have called for the deployment of a multinational force to stabilize the country.

Despite Guterres’ request to the Security Council nine months ago, no country has stepped forward to lead one, due to high risks and uncertain outcomes.

A multinational force has been supported by several Caribbean nations, including Canada and Brazil.

President Joe Biden has stated the United States will not lead a force in Haiti, with a long history of interference there, and instead wants to strengthen its fledgling national police force.

In the meantime, the United Nations has made it clear that many Haitians live in a nightmare on a daily basis: shootings, kidnappings, rapes.

‘Never been worse’

“Haitians and our team there tell me it’s never been worse than it is now,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Catherine Russell said this week after returning from Port-au-Prince.

Director Russell highlighted “unprecedented hunger and malnutrition, grinding poverty, a crippled economy, resurgence of cholera, and a massive insecurity that creates a deadly downward spiral of violence.”

Compounding the crises, the flooding and earthquakes that have repeatedly ravaged the country “continue to remind us all just how vulnerable Haiti is to climate change and natural disasters,” she told a briefing.

Russell then described the horrific ordeal of a kidnapped 11-year-old girl that was raped by three of the five men who took her.

“She was eight months pregnant when we spoke and gave birth just a few days later,” she said, recalling that armed gangs control more than 60 percent of the capital and large swathes of the countryside.

Residents have occasionally taken matters into their own hands when confronted with such violence. It was reported in April that a group of civilians beat to death several suspected gang members and burned their bodies.

Haiti’s minister of planning and external cooperation Ricard Pierre warned in June that if an international assistance force is not deployed soon, the country may descend into civil war.

“The risk of civil war is very real,” he said.

Humanitarian assistance is needed for nearly half of Haiti’s population – 5.2 million people. Among those in need are three million children.

Guterres is also planning to “underscore the need for a Haitian-led, inclusive political pathway towards elections and the return of constitutional order in Haiti,” his spokesperson said.

In the wake of Jovenel Moise’s assassination in July 2021, Henry has faced questions about his legitimacy.

After visiting Haiti, Guterres will attend a CARICOM summit in Trinidad and Tobago. In addition, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to attend the meeting and meet with Henry.


About Author

Avellon Williams

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *