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Haiti's 'Urban Guerrilla' Conflict Leaving Thousands Of Women And Children Homeless

A Haitian man holds a sign that says STOP supporting GANGS in our Haiti as he stands among a crowd of other with raised fists and signs
Dieu Nalio Chery
/
AP
Haitians in December protest spiraling gang violence and what they call President Jovenel Moise's inability if not unwillingness to rein it in.

UNICEF reports gang violence in Port-au-Prince the past year has destroyed homes and made 14,000 Haitians refugees — mostly women and children.

Haiti in the past year has been rocked by a violent crime epidemic but UNICEF says the crisis is taking on a new and more destructive dimension — one that's turning thousands of women and children into refugees.

In a report out this week, UNICEF said thousands of Haitians have been forced from their homes in Port-au-Prince this year because of gang violence — most of them in just the past two weeks.

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The U.N. children’s agency said Haiti “is now facing an urban guerrilla” conflict in several Port-au-Prince districts. Battles between armed gangs in the past nine months have destroyed hundreds of homes and left 14,000 people as refugees — including 8,500 women and children this month alone.

It’s just the latest development in Haiti’s violent crime emergency, which includes a brutal ransom kidnapping wave. Many of the gangs are thought to have political affiliations. Some of the them support authoritarian Haitian President Jovenel Moïse — he has denied any ties to the gangs.

The worsening violence — as well as an economic collapse and a sudden surge of COVID-19 cases — raise questions about whether Haiti can hold presidential and parliamentary elections this fall.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.