UN highlights rising Gang Violence as a threat to pregnant women in Haiti

The United Nations has issued a warning that the escalating gang violence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is jeopardizing access to vital health services for nearly 3,000 pregnant women. On International Women’s Day, the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) highlighted that around 450 of these women are at risk of facing “life-threatening” complications due to the lack of healthcare. Furthermore, the UN office expressed concern that 521 survivors of sexual violence, an issue that has intensified with Haiti’s current turmoil, might also lose access to medical services by month’s end if the unrest continues.

Ulrika Richardson, the deputy special representative of BINUH, stated, “Today, too many women and young women in Haiti are victims of indiscriminate violence committed by armed gangs.” The nation has been embroiled in gang violence for almost three years, a situation exacerbated by the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021, which led to heightened political instability.

The situation deteriorated last weekend when armed assailants took control of the main penitentiary in Port-au-Prince and a neighboring prison, releasing thousands of inmates during an operation that resulted in several deaths. Amid this violence, Haiti’s acting leader, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, has been abroad, with gang leaders demanding his resignation. Henry, whose leadership has been questioned since assuming office shortly after Moise’s death, has been in Puerto Rico since the start of the week, following a trip to Kenya aimed at securing support for a multinational security force to reinforce Haiti’s police.

The US Department of State revealed that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a conversation with Henry, pressing the Haitian prime minister to expedite a political transition by forming a broad-based, independent presidential college. This step is envisioned to pave the way for the deployment of a Multinational Security Support mission and the conduct of free and fair elections. Blinken emphasized the importance of this proposal for restoring peace and stability in Haiti, allowing the Haitian populace to return to their daily routines without the burden of violence and despair.