Gang Violence Traps Thousands in Town Near Haiti’s Capital

Gang violence in Haiti's capital forces residents to flee their homes A member of the Haitian National Police patrols a street as ongoing gun battles between rival gangs have forced residents to flee their homes, in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti April 28, 2022.
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, July 12 (Reuters) – Gun battles between rival Haitian gangs near the capital Port-au-Prince have left thousands trapped in a small coastal town without access to water, food or medical care, a local pastor and a foreign aid group said on Tuesday.

More than 50 people have been killed since Friday in the town of Cite Soleil, the mayor said. The United Nations said on Tuesday that violence is forcing it to move food aid and workers by air and ship from Port-au-Prince to other parts of the country. read more

Residents have not been able to leave the Cite Soleil neighborhood of Brooklyn since fighting broke out, said Pastor Jean Enock Joseph. The town has a population of 250,000.

“People can’t get through. Food can’t get through,” Joseph said in a telephone interview. “We are in a serious situation from a humanitarian standpoint.”

Doctors Without Borders in a statement said that the road leading to the neighborhood was littered with burning or decomposing bodies.

“They could be people killed during the clashes or people trying to leave who were shot — it is a real battlefield,” said Mumuza Muhindo, head of the Haiti mission for Doctors Without Borders.

Gang violence has soared since the assassination last year of President Jovenel Moise. Bloody turf wars have become more frequent, with rights activists in May saying one protracted confrontation killed nearly 150 people.

“The security situation is an important problem in Haiti. (Prime Minister) Ariel Henry is working for a quick solution,” a spokesman for the prime minister’s office said in response to a request for comment.

The World Food Programme (WFP) on Tuesday said that in response to gang violence, it set up a ferry service that carries food aid from Port-au-Prince to other parts of the country and is also using short flights for its workers.

The agency has already shipped 2,000 tonnes of assistance that way, Jean-Martin Bauer, WFP country director in Haiti, told journalists by video link.

“This violence has had impact on markets, on trade, on livelihoods, and it has cut off the city from the rest of Haiti,” he said.

Additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Miami; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Cynthia Osterman
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