UN: Over 300,000 Haitian Children Displaced by Gang Violence

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has reported that over 300,000 children have been displaced in Haiti due to gang violence since March. This figure represents more than half of the nearly 580,000 people who have become homeless in the last four months. The surge in violence began in late February after a series of coordinated attacks on essential government infrastructure, culminating in a state of emergency declaration in April.

“The humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes is having a devastating impact on children,” stated Catherine Russell, UNICEF’s executive director. “Displaced children urgently require a secure and protective environment, and increased support and funding from the international community.”

Gangs currently control at least 80% of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and the main roads leading in and out of the city. The U.N. reports that over 2,500 individuals were killed or injured across the country during the first three months of the year.

Many children are residing in makeshift shelters, including schools, which are in poor sanitary conditions, putting them at risk of disease. School closures are also contributing to a higher dropout rate.

UNICEF states that children in Haiti are being forced to join violent gangs to survive, often due to a lack of access to food, healthcare, clean water, and sanitation. Displaced children and teenagers in Haiti are also at an elevated risk of sexual assault, exploitation, abuse, and family separation.

This announcement comes just days after the U.N. Security Council authorized the deployment of an international force to Haiti to assist in rescuing the nation from the grip of armed gangs. The deployment has received mixed reactions following a previous U.N. peacekeeping mission that introduced cholera into the country and was marred by allegations of sexual misconduct.

On Monday, Jonathan Finer, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser, met with Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille to discuss the initial deployment of the U.N.-backed mission to Haiti. Finer emphasized the United States’ strong support for accountability and oversight mechanisms as part of the mission.

Haiti is also preparing for a severe hurricane season, which is expected to be more active than usual. A tropical storm watch was in effect for Haiti’s southern coast as Hurricane Beryl moved into the Caribbean Sea.