United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has called for the immediate deployment of a special armed force to Haiti to staunch spiraling insecurity, as the already crisis-hit country faces the threat of a cholera epidemic.
In a letter submitted to the UN Security Council on Sunday and seen by AFP, Guterres urged member states to deploy a “rapid action force” to the Caribbean nation to tackle “a dramatic deterioration in security.”
The letter, which outlined “options for enhanced security support to Haiti” as requested by a July UN Security Council resolution, came a day after Haiti said it had formally sought international assistance with a worsening security situation that the national police were unable to overcome.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is facing an acute political, economic, security and health crisis, which has paralyzed the country and sparked a breakdown of law and order.
Protests and looting have rocked the already unstable country since September 11, when the government announced a fuel price hike.
Since mid-September, the country’s largest fuel import terminal, in Varreux, has been controlled by powerful armed gangs.
In his letter, Guterres underlined a need to restore security to ensure access to supplies and services, to safeguard transport infrastructure and oil terminals and to tackle rampant gang violence.
“Addressing these objectives is imperative for the country to halt its spiraling instability,” he said.
He called for the establishment of a unit made up of special armed forces personnel from member states, with the efforts led by one member state.
Guterres reiterated the call in a public statement issued Sunday by spokesman Stephane Dujarric, in which he said he “remains gravely concerned about the situation in Haiti,” where already dire humanitarian conditions risk being exacerbated by a cholera outbreak.
The UN on Thursday warned of a possible explosion of cholera cases in the country after Haiti announced its first cases of cholera in three years last week, with at least seven deaths.
As of Friday, the UN said at least twelve cholera cases had been confirmed and another 152 suspected cases reported, though Ulrika Richardson, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Haiti, said the real numbers could be much higher.
Tests were underway abroad to determine whether it was the same strain of cholera as the one that killed more than 10,000 people from 2010 to 2019.
Guterres’s Sunday statement underscored that the blockage of the Varreux terminal hindered efforts to tackle the outbreak, including by hampering the delivery of “critical services required to prevent the rapid spread of the disease to a stand-still, including the distribution of potable water.”
“The most vulnerable sectors of the Haitian population are those hit the hardest.”
The deteriorating security situation led the Dominican Republic, which shares the mountainous island of Hispaniola with Haiti, to warn on Sunday that it would shut down the border in the event of a “massive migration.”
“It is very dangerous to receive refugees en masse,” said President Luis Abinader, who has previously called for more action from the international community to mitigate the crises in Haiti.
The crushing poverty and widespread violence in Haiti, home to 11 million people, has caused large numbers of Haitians to attempt to flee to the Dominican Republic or to the United States.
In its July resolution, the UN Security Council agreed to ask member states to ban the transfer of small arms to Haiti but stopped short of a full embargo requested by China.
It also extended the mandate of the UN’s special political mission in Haiti, BINUH, until 2023.
Haiti had already been mired in a political and economic crisis for years before the assassination of president Jovenel Moise in 2021 exacerbated its instability, with gangs taking an increasingly strong hold.