UN hopes Haiti force will start in early 2024

The UN said Friday it hopes the multinational force heading to Haiti to help tackle the “absolute, brutal” gang violence ravaging the country will deploy before the end of March.

Ulrika Richardson, the United Nations’ resident and humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, said the security force should be 2,500 to 2,600 strong, including 1,000 Kenyans, though the composition has not been finalised.

Haitian officials have pleaded for a year for help in battling armed gangs ravaging the Caribbean nation — just one of the challenges facing the poorest state in the Americas, whose political, economic and public health systems are also in tatters.

The UN Security Council gave the go-ahead in early October for the Kenya-led mission to help the overwhelmed Haitian police tackle rampant gang violence and try to restore peace and security.

“It’s very difficult to have an estimation of when they will arrive,” Richardson told a media briefing in Geneva.

“But we would expect and hope they would be able to arrive during the first quarter of 2024.”

Kenya’s involvement has been criticised at home and the government is currently barred from deploying any police to Haiti due to an ongoing court challenge to its plans.

Judge Enock Mwita last month said the orders blocking the deployment would stay in force until he issues a ruling on January 26.

So far in 2023, more than 8,000 people have been killed, injured or kidnapped in Haiti according to the UN human rights office — far surpassing the figures for the whole of 2022.

The UN estimates that almost 80 percent of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area is either under the influence of or directly controlled by armed gangs.

Haiti has descended into “absolute, brutal violence”, Richardson said.

“Many Haitians often think that we’ve now reached the peak of violence, and then we see just the next week: even more brutal.”

For many, simply leaving the house is “a matter of life and death”.

Richardson said more than 5.2 million people, almost half of the country, needed humanitarian assistance, including nearly three million children.

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