Humanitarians launch $674 million appeal urging ‘increased solidarity’ with Haiti


Humanitarians are hoping that donors will robustly support a $674 million appeal for Haiti, where armed gangs continue to terrorize the population, a senior UN official said on Wednesday during a briefing to journalists in New York. 

Ulrika Richardson, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti, was speaking from the capital, Port-au-Prince, a day after the Government and partners launched the plan to provide food, shelter, health, education and protection services for 3.6 million people this year. 

This is a call for increased solidarity, and Haiti needs it,” she said, noting that the country is “going through one of the most critical moments in its recent history”. 

Record violence, rising displacement 

Ms. Richardson reported that last year saw “a very steep increase” in murders, lynchings, rape and other violence committed by gang members operating mainly in the capital and nearby Artibonite province.

This “very tragic trend” has continued into 2024, with January being the most violent month in two years, she added, echoing recent findings by the UN human rights office, OHCHR

Sexual violence, including collective rape – mainly affecting women and girls – effectively rose 50 per cent over 2022 levels, and “too often the perpetrators go free,” she said in response to a reporter’s question. 

The number of Haitians forced to flee their homes has also risen, with some 314,000 now displaced. People are sleeping on the streets, camping out in schools or living in host communities, where resources are already overstretched. 

Education under attack 

Haiti has a population of around 11 million, and humanitarians have assessed that around 5.5 million people require assistance. 

Of that number, more than four million are facing acute food insecurity, with increased malnutrition among children and pregnant women.  

Additionally, 45 per cent of Haitians do not have access to clean drinking water. 

Ms. Richardson drew particular attention to the plight of children, who comprise the majority of people in need, around three million. Rampant violence is threatening their access to education, while students who rely on school feeding programmes are missing out on meals. 

“At some point, we had 1,000 schools not open during the month of January, and that means a lot to children and a generation that has already seen impacts on their schooling,” she said, citing first the COVID-19 lockdown followed by the collapse of security and services. 

Support for UN-backed mission 

Whether at home or in the streets, people in gang-affected areas are at risk. Gangs also often control major roads in and out of the capital, thus hindering both Haitians and the humanitarians that serve them.

Ms. Richardson was asked how Haitians feel about the proposed multinational security support mission authorized by the UN Security Council to back up the national police. 

If you would ask people on the street if they need assistance to deal with the gang violence, they will say yes,” she answered. 

Responding to another question, the veteran humanitarian described the suffering and pain in Haiti as “daunting” and “appalling”. 

“I can say that what I've witnessed here – and many with me, including Haitians – it goes beyond even what you could have feared in your worst nightmare.” 

Tackle root causes 

Last year, the UN and partners sought $720 million for their operations in Haiti and received around 34 per cent of the funding.  

She explained that this year’s “financial envelope” is lower, even though needs are greater, as humanitarians have tried to be more targeted in their approach, plus they have learned what works best and also have very good cooperation with local organizations.

“We really count on a very robust mobilization of the international community,” she said, expressing hope for the 2024 plan.

However, she stressed that humanitarian assistance is not the solution to the crisis in Haiti and called for parallel investment to address the root causes.  

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