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Haiti: UNICEF aid container looted amid gang violence

March 17, 2024

UNICEF said one of their containers carrying essential supplies was looted by gangs at Haiti's main port. Meanwhile, police seized firearms and cleared roadblocks in an area controlled by a notorious gang leader.

A worker unloads UN supplies in the  Port-au-Prince airport
Haiti has been wracked by gang violence and left largely isolated from the outside world in recent monthsImage: JAIME RAZURI/AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Saturday that one of its 17 aid containers at Haiti's main port was looted.

The container was carrying "essential items for maternal, neonatal, and child survival, as well as critical supplies for early childhood development and education, water equipment, and others," the agency said.

Haiti is struggling to resolve a long-running political and humanitarian crisis that the children's agency, UNICEF, has warned is causing record hunger and life-threatening malnutrition in parts of the capital Port-au-Prince.

One out of every four women is unable to access basic health care and nutrition, the agency said.

"Looting of supplies that are essential for life saving support for children must end immediately," said Bruno Maes, UNICEF's Haiti representative, in a statement.

Gang violence has spiked throughout the country in recent days. 

Haiti faces humanitarian crisis in wake of political unrest

Police action against gangs

Haiti's unelected prime minister, Ariel Henry, said this week he would step down once a transitional council was in place.

Heavily armed gangs have taken over much of the capital Port-au-Prince, and rights groups have reported widespread killings, kidnappings and sexual violence.

Some hospitals in the city have been forced to close over safety concerns, and only two surgical operating facilities are operational, according to UNICEF.

Shortages of electricity, fuel and medical supplies have affected hospitals in other parts of the country as well, with six out of ten facilities not able to function, the agency added.

On Saturday, police seized firearms and cleared roadblocks in a Port-au-Prince neighborhood controlled by notorious gang leader Jimmy "Barbecue" Cherizier.

The operation left several criminals dead, authorities said.

How the West messed with Haiti

Haiti wracked by gang violence and political instability

Law enforcement officials are also attempting to regain control of the capital's main port, which has been shut since March 7 because of the violence. 

Haiti's main airport in the capital, meanwhile, remains closed following gang attacks.

The US State Department said it would be offering limited charter flights for American citizens from
the less chaotic northern city of Cap-Haïtien.

But it warned that US citizens should consider the flights "only if you think you can reach Cap-Haïtien airport safely."

Haitians have been on edge in recent days awaiting the naming of a transitional governing body meant to restore stability to the impoverished country, wracked by gang violence and left largely isolated from the outside world.

The establishment of a transitional council is supported by the Caribbean regional body CARICOM, the United Nations and the United States.

tg/sri (AFP, AP, Reuters)