Crisis in Haiti: Violence, kidnappings provoke charities, foreigners to flee

Port-au-Prince, Haiti - The security situation in Haiti continues to decline, provoking the exodus of charity workers and foreign residents.
According to ActionAid International-Haiti, the failure of security measures can be traced to the dearth of resources and effort from the nation's transitional government. Meanwhile, local violence is increasing in intensity and scope.

Recent developments:

  • Kidnappings have increased to upwards of 6 a day. All civilians, including children and the elderly, have been identified as targets. A rising surge of victims are reportedly facing torture during captivity. In one instance, the child of a family too poor to pay ransom was recently returned home with her eyes gorged out.

  • Violent crimes (burglary, murder, rape, and assaults) are dramatically increasing in the capital of Port-au-Prince.

  • Daily gunfire has become routine in certain areas. As a result, downtown Port-au-Prince is rapidly becoming evacuated by business owners. Detrimental consequences to the economy are expected for the long and short term. The area surrounding Haiti's National Palace is also experiencing a regular barrage of gunfire.

  • The US Peace Corps has departed from Haiti, and other non-essential US residents were requested to evacuate the nation four weeks ago. As a result, the US embassy is nearly deserted, reducing functions to a bare minimum. Many countries, including the United States and Canada, are issuing regular advisories warning their citizens not to travel to the Caribbean nation.

  • On June 23rd, Interim President Boniface Alexandre enacted what is becoming a routine reshuffle within the nation's cabinet. Key changes were made in the Interior, Social Affairs, and Justice Ministries.

  • On June 23rd, Haiti's influential "Conseil des Sages" (Council of the Wise) publicly denounced the manner in which the cabinet reshuffle was undertaken, citing rampant nepotism. Separately, several political leaders denounced the recent nomination of a Lavalas Party member to the government, describing the action as a clear violation of an April 4th agreement specifically banning political parties from governance. The nomination was also denounced as a possible reward to Lavalas-affiliated gang members, whom are accused of holding responsibility for the current climate of unrest.

  • On June 22nd, the UN Security Council extended its Haitian peacekeeping mandate for another eight months. In compliance with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's recommendation, 800 troops will be added to the nation's existing force of 6,700 peacekeepers. 275 civilian police officers will additionally be recruited to join the current force of 1,622.

  • With an impending election on the horizon, international observers fear that lawlessness in Haiti will nonetheless remain on the uprise.

In light of the current situation, ActionAid International demands that national and international authorities directly and immediately address Haiti's security concerns. We call on the United Nations:

  • to implement an effective and immediate disarmament program
  • to work in partnership with civil society on security issues
  • to provide training and support programs for the Haitian National Police

ActionAid calls on Haiti's interim national government to establish an effective criminal justice system, and to end the reign of impunity.

To ensure that none of these measures fail due to a lack of resources, ActionAid also calls on donor countries to fulfill their fiscal commitments towards aiding Haiti's reconstruction.

ActionAid International is a nonprofit organization bringing relief to some 13 million individuals in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean every year. Working hand-in-hand with 2,000 civil society partners, over 90% of ActionAid's employees herald from developing countries. For more information, visit www.actionaid.org

Facts about Haiti: The poorest country within the Americas, Haiti supports a population of 8,121,622-80% of which lives in abject poverty. The island nation is slightly smaller than the US state of Maryland. According to the US CIA, peacekeepers from the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) have been striving to maintain civil order in the nation since the unrest that led to the resignation of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Despite efforts to control illegal migration, Haitians fleeing economic privation and civil unrest continue to cross into Dominican Republic, and to sail to neighboring countries

Jean-Claude Fignolé, ActionAid International- Haiti
(509) 245 5227 / (509)512 0216

Sandy Krawitz, Media Officer, ActionAid USA
202-835-1240 or 202-492-7207 (cell)