Hunger deepens as relentless gang violence targets Haiti’s capital

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People look for salvageable items at a car mechanic shop that was set on fire during gang violence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on March 25. (AP)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, March 27, (AP): Gangs have intensified their rampage in the downtown area of Haiti’s capital, setting fire to a school and looting pharmacies across the road from the country’s largest public hospital.
The attacks that began Monday and continued into early Tuesday mark nearly a month since gunmen began targeting key infrastructure across Port-au-Prince including police stations, the main international airport that remains closed and Haiti’s two biggest prisons, releasing more than 4,000 inmates.
“The violence and instability in Haiti have consequences far beyond the risk of the violence itself,” Catherine Russell, UNICEF’s executive director, said in a statement Tuesday. “The situation is creating a child health and nutrition crisis that could cost the lives of countless of children.”
The number of children in Haiti estimated to suffer from severe acute malnutrition has increased by 19% this year, according to UNICEF. In addition, some 1.64 million people are on the precipice of famine. “This malnutrition crisis is entirely human made,” Russell said.
Violence has forced the closure of roads and certain hospitals and prevented aid groups from delivering critical supplies at a time they are needed the most.
Only two of five hospitals in Haiti are operational across the country, according to UNICEF. In addition, the violence in Port-au-Prince has prevented the distribution of health and nutrition supplies for at least 58,000 children who are severely wasted, the agency said.
Scores of people have been killed in the ongoing attacks, and some 17,000 have been left homeless as Haiti’s National Police continues to be overwhelmed by heavily armed gangs that control 80% of the capital.
On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden approved up to $10 million in emergency assistance for Haitian security forces to “protect civilians and critical infrastructure against organized and targeted gang attacks,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

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