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UN: 598K Displaced by Violence in Haiti06/20 06:17


   PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Surging violence in Haiti from clashes with 
armed gangs since March has displaced nearly 580,000 people, according to a new 
report from the U.N. migration agency, a sobering figure that underscores the 
magnitude of the Caribbean nation's crisis.

   Haiti has long faced unrest but at the end of February, gangs unleashed 
coordinated attacks with gunmen taking control of police stations, opening fire 
on the main international airport that remained closed for nearly three months 
and stormed Haiti's two biggest prisons.

   A report released on Tuesday by the International Organization for Migration 
said the displacement of more than half a million is mainly due to people 
fleeing the capital of Port-au-Prince for other provinces, which lack the 
resources to support them.

   In March, the agency reported more than 362,000 internally displaced people 
in Haiti. Since then, the violence has more than doubled the number of 
internally displaced in the southern region -- already ravaged by a 2021 
earthquake -- from 116,000 to 270,000.

   "Nearly all those internally displaced are currently hosted by communities 
already struggling with overburdened social services and poor infrastructure, 
raising further concerns about tensions with the potential to spark further 
violence," the report said.

   With more than 2,500 people killed or injured across Haiti in the first 
three months of the year, Haiti's National Police, understaffed and overwhelmed 
by gangs with powerful arsenals, has been unable to bring the situation under 

   Marie Jean, 49, and her two children were displaced from their 
Port-au-Prince home after her husband was killed by a gang in February. She's 
now sheltered with her children at a public school.

   "I lived in a comfortable home that my husband worked hard to build," Jean 
told The Associated Press. "Now I'm living in a situation that's inhuman."

   Juste Dorvile, 39, is also staying at a public school with her 12-year-old 
daughter and boyfriend as gunshots are heard constantly in the area. "Everyday 
we're hoping that we survive," she said.

   With the gangs in control of at least 80% of Port-au-Prince and key roads 
leading to the rest of the country, many are living in makeshift shelters, 
including schools and learning institutions that are now hosting more than 
60,000 people.

   The gangs have also been charging fees for those wanting to use the highways 
or blackmailing drivers to get their hijacked trucks back on the roads, where 
police presence is scarce.

   Haiti's new acting prime minister, Garry Conille, who was appointed last 
month along with a Cabinet, attended a ceremony on Tuesday where over 400 
officers graduated from the police academy, with the expectation that they will 
help curb gang violence in Haiti. He reminded the graduates that the people 
count on their dedication to combat insecurity.

   "You need to know that you are not alone," Conille said. "You are the hope 
of the population at this crucial moment in our history."

   Violence is also on the rise outside Haiti's capital. Last week, armed gangs 
attacked families located in Terre-Neuve, a village in northern Haiti, forcing 
more than 1,000 people to flee their homes to safer areas.

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