Rising gang violence in Haiti is now targeting children, UNICEF warns
PANAMA CITY, 15 April 2021 – Since the last trimester of 2020, 73 women and children in Haiti have been targeted by gang violence, UNICEF alerted today.
Between September 2020 and February 2021, the number of children and women victims of armed assaults reportedly attributed to criminal gangs has significantly increased in Haiti, rising from 45 to 73 in incidents, including killings, injuries, rapes and kidnappings, according to the United Nations. This represents a 62 per cent increase compared to the previous report from September 2020.
“Children and women in Haiti are no longer merely the victims of criminal gangs —they are increasingly becoming their targets”, warns Jean Gough, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Whether kidnappings, rapes or even killings, more and more incidents of gang violence have involved children and women in the past few weeks and months. This recent upsurge is fuelling insecurity in the impoverished country.”
According to the Haitian Brigade for the protection of minors (BPM), at least 31 children have been kidnapped between 2020 and 2021.
Just a few days ago, a group of armed men broke into an orphanage and raped two girls aged 13 and 14 and a 27-year-old woman in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. This incident left 36 girls and boys traumatised. Together with the Haitian authority for child protection IBESR and NGO partners, UNICEF provided immediate medical and psychosocial care to the victims and to the other boys and girls in the orphanage. UNICEF strongly condemns this despicable violent act, demands perpetrators to be brought to justice, and calls upon Haitian authorities to step up efforts to set up alternative family care options instead of orphanages.
Insecurity in Haiti has increasingly disrupted the provision of education and other basic services to children. During the 2019 - 2020 school year, about 60 per cent of all Haitian schools were closed for 60 days due to violent social unrest. This year, rising gang violence and insecurity prevented many children from going to school in several urban areas in and around Port-au-Prince.
“Violence in communities is unacceptable”, said Jean Gough. “Gang violence must be stopped. Week after week, criminal gangs in Haiti are expanding their reign of terror and fear on more families and more communities. Keeping children safe should be the top priorities of the new Haitian government.”
UNICEF urges all the actors to refrain from targeting children and women and calls upon the new Haitian government to take action to curb gang violence against children.
Last December, UNICEF made a US$75 million emergency appeal to provide humanitarian assistance such as formal and non-formal education, health care, safe water, child protection and social protection services to 2 million people in Haiti, including 1.2 million children. So far, only 0.001 per cent has been raised.
UNICEF works in some of the world's toughest places, to reach the world's most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/lac/en.