The United Nations expressed concern Wednesday over the recruitment of children by gangs whose violence has plagued Haiti, with at least 39 civilians killed in the last two weeks alone.
The UN “is particularly worried about the recruitment of minors within the gangs, one of the six serious violations of the rights of the child,” the Integrated Office of the United Nations in Haiti tweeted.
The armed bands have roved the poorest neighbourhoods of the capital for decades, but their hold on the city has increased drastically in recent years.
Last week, a video circulated on Haitian social media showing a masked pre-teen child wielding a high-caliber automatic weapon.
In the clip — taken in Martissant, a poor neighbourhood in western Port-au-Prince that has been entirely controlled by gangs since last year — the boy explains he is at war with a rival gang’s leader.
The UN’s denunciation of the criminal groups’ inclusion of children comes as the gangs’ control has continued to spread to the city’s northern and eastern suburbs.
The UN in Haiti “condemns the armed gang violence ongoing since April 24 that is affecting the communities in the north and northeast of Port-au-Prince, which has killed dozens of Haitians and injured and displaced thousands of others,” the organization’s account tweeted.
Human rights organizations have not yet assembled a detailed account of the situation in the areas most severely affected as they have been unable to enter due to the violence.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Haiti’s civil protection authority estimated that — between April 24 and May 2 — at least 39 people have been killed and 68 injured, along with “around 9,000 people (who) have been displaced” from three communities in suburban Port-au-Prince.
“Forty-eight schools, five medical centers and eight markets have been closed because of the situation,” the statement said.
The national police and other government officials have not yet commented on this latest outbreak of violence, which has blocked all safe land routes out of the capital.
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