A top UN spokesman said that an civil unrest and a cholera outbreak are putting Haiti in a dire situation.
“Because of the security situation, we don’t have the access that we need,” Stephane Dujarric, chief spokesman for the UN Secretary-general, said at a regular briefing on Monday, describing how powerful gangs have blocked aid from reaching victims of the outbreak.
“The situation is quite dire,” Xinhua news agency quoted Dujarric as saying.
That is why UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent a letter to the Security Council on Sunday seeking a specialised armed force to help quell the violence and open access for humanitarians to reach cholera victims, the spokesman said.
Guterres hopes that there will be quick mobilization on behalf of the people of Haiti from UN member states, including members of the Security Council.
“What we need is a force that will help the Haitian authorities deal with the security situation,” he said. “We’re seeing now the port continuously blocked, which hampers our ability to bring aid out of the port, to rotate and to get … large quantities of humanitarian aid out.”
He said the Haitian government, making it clear that it remains opposed to a return of peacekeepers, proposes bilateral support to complement the mandate of the existing UN political mission. It focuses on political stability, good governance and the development of the Haitian National Police.
As of Sunday, there were 32 confirmed cholera cases, 224 suspected, and 16 confirmed deaths, Dujarric said.
“Despite access and logistical challenges, we and our humanitarian partners are supporting the Ministry of Health on the cholera response,” he said.
“More than 43 health facilities around Port-au-Prince and the Center region have been identified and will be used to treat cholera patients. Twelve health facilities are currently receiving patients for treatment.”
Dujarric said water and sanitation teams are working on training and chlorination interventions, and 1 million people are targeted daily with text messages in creole.
He said the Port-au-Prince national prison reported two confirmed cholera cases, 9 deaths and 39 suspected cases as of Sunday. The UN system provided the prison authority with an ad hoc protocol to prevent and minimize, as much as possible, the outbreak and its implications.
“UN agencies in the country are accompanying the Haitian government in efforts to investigate and respond to this outbreak through the rapid provision of medical and sanitation supplies as well as through technical advice for case management and infection prevention as well as control measures,” the spokesman said.
“National authorities are mounting an urgent response, investigating the situation to identify the source.”
The UN emergency relief coordinator released on October 7 a grant of $7 million from the Emergency Response Fund to try to address the cholera response.
The 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan for Haiti, however, remains severely underfunded, at about 20 per cent.
“We urgently appeal for funds from the international community to address the cholera outbreak as well as other pressing humanitarian needs in the country. Of course, the ability to address the humanitarian need better is linked to the security situation,” said Dujarric.
Since September, a group of powerful gangs have blocked the country’s main Varreux fuel terminal, crippling its basic supplies like water and food.
Some hospitals have shut, while businesses and transport services stopped working in protest of destitution.
Civil unrest escalated since Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced an end to government fuel subsidies on September 11, which sent petrol and diesel prices skyrocketing.
Since then, protests and looting have intensified, with the capital, Port-au-Prince, at the heart of it.