A street in the Martissant neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti (pictured in 2021), bears witness to gang violence that controls it and other parts of the Haitian capital. File Photo by Orlando Barria/EPA-EFE
March 21 (UPI) -- A United Nations spokesperson has sounded a call for the international community to deploy a specialized force to halt the rising violence in Haiti.
Marta Hurtado, spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights, Volker Türk, expressed grave concern over the heightened conflict in the Caribbean nation in a press release. She said a "time-bound specialized support force" must be formed internationally to restore and protect human rights.
Hurtado said there had been 531 people killed, 300 injured and 277 kidnapped this year, as of Wednesday, largely in the capital of Port-au-Prince. The violent incidents are connected to gang activity. More than 200 have been killed since the beginning of the month.
The rampant chaos has caused more than 160,000 people to be displaced as they attempt to flee to safety, Hurtado said.
"Students and teachers have been hit by stray bullets during gang confrontations, and the kidnapping of parents and students in the vicinity of schools has surged, forcing many of them to close," Hurtado said in the press release.
"A quarter of those displaced live in makeshift settlements, with very limited access to basic services such as drinking water and sanitation."
President Joe Biden is expected to discuss the state of violence in Haiti when he visits Canada to call that nation to take the lead in supporting safety efforts in Haiti.
The United States also is seeking help from Brazil, The Guardian reports. Brazil previously had been involved in maintaining peace in Haiti, but current foreign minister Mauro Vieira has said other solutions are needed.
"I don't know if sending troops or a peacekeeping operation is the solution," Vieira said, according to The Guardian. "And I think other countries could also take part."
To stop the violence, Hurtado said entities who are financing gang activity should be prosecuted.
During Turk's visit to Haiti last month, he said the issues there are "vast and overwhelming," in a press release. He cited systemic corruption and compounding crises. He also called for a specialized support force.
"The world needs to hear what I have borne witness to and what my colleagues document every day from some of the poorest, most frightening situations in the world -- a capital city where, in many areas, predatory armed gangs control access to water, food, healthcare, and fuel; where kidnappings are rampant; [and] children are prevented from going to school, recruited to perpetrate violence, and subjected to it," Turk wrote. "A country where one out of every two people faces hunger, lives in extreme poverty and does not have regular access to clean drinking water. A profound transformation is needed in Haiti and human rights need to be at the centre of envisioning a better future for all."