UNITED NATIONS  — About 60 percent of Haiti’s capital is under the control of gangs whose violence and sexual assaults have caused thousands of people to flee their homes, Ulrika Richardson, the UN humanitarian affairs coordinator, said Thursday. for the Caribbean nation.

Richardson noted that nearly 20,000 people in the capital are facing “catastrophic famine-like conditions” as a cholera outbreak sweeps through Haiti.

The official described a bleak picture in a country in crisis where half of its population needs urgent food assistance and the number of deaths from cholera has risen to 283. She added that since October 2 close to 12,000 people have been hospitalized due to the disease and there are currently more than 14,000 suspected cases of cholera in eight of the country’s 10 regions.

Richardson said 19,000 of the 20,000 Haitians facing famine conditions are in the capital Port-au-Prince, mainly in the gang-controlled Cite Soleil neighborhood. The official stated that insecurity has caused “mass displacements”, particularly in the capital, where 155,000 people have fled their homes.

In a press conference, he pointed out that gangs are using “very frightening levels of sexual violence as a weapon” to keep the population under control, instill fear and punish.

Richardson commented that turf battles between gangs and their criminal actions are tearing society apart and increasing insecurity.

Political instability has been on the rise in the country since the still unsolved assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July last year, after the president faced protests demanding his resignation on corruption charges against him.

Daily life in Haiti began to spiral out of control in September, just hours after Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced that gasoline subsidies would be removed, sending prices doubling. A gang led by Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, a former police officer, blocked the way to the Varreux fuel terminal, sparking a crisis.

The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Cherizier on October 21, and he announced on November 6 that his G9 gang federation would lift the blockade.

But Richardson noted that despite the availability of fuel, the humanitarian, security and political situation is worsening, declaring that “everyone is affected by violence.”

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