Haitians take to the streets to protest against insecurity Haitians take to the streets to protest against insecurity  (ANSA)

Violence escalates in Haiti, 300 women and children kidnapped in six months

The United Nations Children's Fund calls attention to the alarming increase in kidnappings in Haiti with over 300 cases from January to June 2023. Meanwhile, thousands of citizens continue protesting the breakdown in security in the Caribbean country.

By Marco Guerra

The Caribbean nation of Haiti is increasingly caught in the grip of insecurity and violence. The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, has sounded the alarm about the increase in abductions of women and children. Some 300 cases have been confirmed in the first six months of 2023, almost double the total number for last year and triple that of 2021.

Women and children taken by armed groups

According to the UNICEF, in many cases children and women are forcibly taken by armed groups for financial gain or tactical advantage. Victims who manage to return home have to deal with deep physical and psychological scars that can last for many years.

UNICEF also reports that "local health systems are on the verge of collapse and schools are under attack." Increased violence, looting, roadblocks and the pervasive presence of armed groups are greatly limiting humanitarian efforts, making it difficult to distribute much-needed aid to affected communities.

As the months go by, fears are growing and these weigh on an already difficult environment for those providing life-saving aid. The United Nations describes the overall situation as catastrophic. To date, an estimated 5.2 million people, almost half the entire population of the Caribbean country, are in need of humanitarian assistance, including nearly three million children.

UNICEF: humanitarian workers at risk

"The stories we are hearing from UNICEF colleagues and partners in the field are shocking and unacceptable," Gary Conille, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, notes in a statement.

"The increase in abductions and kidnappings," the UNICEF representative continues, "is extremely worrying, threatening both the people of Haiti and those who are there to help them...I have seen the extraordinary resilience of Haiti's children, women and families as they face seemingly insurmountable challenges, refusing to give up," Conille adds, "however, their courage comes up against a growing and unthinkable terror. This must stop now."

In light of this reality, UNICEF has called urgently for the immediate release and safe return of all those abducted in Haiti.

International intervention

The deteriorating security conditions also became the focus of street protests on Monday 6 August in Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince, where thousands of people marched to demand protection against armed gangs that rage unchallenged. Gang violence has worsened the plight of the poor and the country is awaiting a UN Security Council decision on the potential deployment of an international armed force. The UN refugee agency says about 73,500 people fled Haiti last year due to increasing violence and poverty.

Responding to the crisis

Despite these immense challenges, UNICEF continues to respond to the crisis, offering vital support to children and victims who survive these abductions. The UN agency works together with other partners, providing life-saving assistance, ensuring access to medical care, psychosocial support and safe spaces where children can begin the healing and recovery process.

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08 August 2023, 15:46