UN calls for armed forces in Haiti

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As the security situation in Haiti continues deteriorating, United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres wants the Security Council (SC) to consider deploying armed forces to help the country address “immense” humanitarian concerns.

He has written to the SC outlining options for enhanced security support to the Caribbean country. His letter follows a request by Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry sent to the international community, for a “specialised armed force” to intervene in a country which has effectively ground to a halt.

The US State Department is reviewing the Haitian Government’s request, in co-ordination with international partners, to “determine how we can increase support to help address Haiti’s fuel shortage and security constraints.”

Composition of such an armed force has, so far, not been specified and no commitments to send troops have been made by any UN Member States.

Last month, gangs blockaded the Verreux fuel terminal, Haiti’s main fuel port, leading to gas and diesel shortages and causing businesses and hospitals to shut down.

Potable water supplies are also impacted with Haitians facing a cholera outbreak following three years without any cases. The outbreak prompted Martin Griffiths, UN humanitarian relief chief, to call for emergency lifesaving funding and warn, if the spread of the disease is left unchecked it could lead to “cataclysmic levels of despair for the people of Haiti.”

In his statement, Guterres implored Haitians to “rise above their differences and to engage, without further delay, in a peaceful and inclusive dialogue on a constructive way forward.”

He promised the UN stands by the people of Haiti and will “support efforts to build consensus, reduce violence and promote stability in the country”.

Cholera cases continue to grow amid the worsening insecurity. UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, said that as of Sunday, there were 32 confirmed cases, 224 suspected and 16 confirmed deaths.

“Despite access and logistical challenges, we and our humanitarian partners are supporting the Ministry of Health on the cholera response. More than 43 health facilities around Port-au-Prince and the centre region will be used to treat cholera patients,” he said.

Twelve health facilities currently receive patients for treatment, while water points have been installed and water and sanitation teams have begun training and chlorination interventions.

Risk Communication and Community Engagement efforts are ongoing, said Dujarric and currently target a million people a day with text messages in creole.

Cases have also been identified in the national prison in Port-au-Prince. According to authorities, there were two confirmed with nine deaths and 39 suspected cases of cholera.

National authorities are investigating the situation to identify the source and an urgent response has been mounted

“The UN system provided the national prison authority with an ad hoc protocol to prevent and minimize, as much as possible, the outbreak and its implications,” Dujarric said.