Haitians Experiencing 'New Levels of Desperation'

Fuel shortage, gang violence, political impasse have triggered major humanitarian crisis
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 27, 2022 4:41 PM CDT
UN Officials Warn of Spiraling Humanitarian Crisis in Haiti
A protester adds a tire to a burning barricade during a protest against fuel price hikes and demands for Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry to step down in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, Sept. 16, 2022.   (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

"The situation in Haiti has sadly reached new levels of desperation," the World Food Program’s executive director Valerie Guarnieri told the UN Security Council on Monday during an emergency meeting about the Caribbean nation’s spiraling humanitarian crisis. Per the BBC, the Security Council also heard from head of the UN’s Haiti office, Helen La Lime, who reported that some 2,000 tons of food aid had been looted from UN warehouses near Port-au-Prince. "That would have collectively supported up to 200,000 of the most vulnerable Haitians over the next month," she told the Council.

The looting follows weeks of violent protests sparked by the government’s announcement Sept. 11 that it would end fuel subsidies, per the Wall Street Journal. Gas prices hit $25 per gallon in a country already plagued by soaring inflation, chronic gang violence, and political gridlock. Amid calls for his resignation, Prime Minister Ariel Henry has appealed for calm, but his government appears decidedly weak with an estimated 200 armed gangs leaving much of the capital "engulfed in street warfare," according to the Guardian. The crisis has worsened dramatically since Sept. 16, when one gang used a bulldozer to dig trenches and blockade a major fuel terminal, crippling transportation as well as electricity generation in a country that relies mostly on diesel generators, per Reuters.

That, in turn, has triggered a medical crisis, according to UNICEF, which said in a statement Monday that some hospitals may be forced to close because it is nearly impossible to maintain sterile conditions or conserve medicines requiring refrigeration. Lack of fuel is also affecting the country’s mobile phone providers, which also rely on generators to power their antennas. As the US and other countries promote political dialogue and promise to help strengthen the country’s outgunned police force, the UN Security Council is considering sanctions against gang leaders, per the Miami Herald, despite fears that such actions could deepen suffering among the population. (More Haiti stories.)

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