40,000 People Driven From Homes By Haiti Violence: UN

(AFP) — Around 40,000 people have been forced out of their homes since mid-August by violence in Haiti, the United Nation’s food agency said Monday, following a rise in crime in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

The displacement is exacerbating “an already complex humanitarian crisis, where almost half of the country faces acute levels of food insecurity,” the Rome-based World Food Programme said.

Violent gangs control swathes of the country and the United Nations warned last week of an increase in indiscriminate killings, kidnappings, rapes and attacks in several previously safe neighbourhoods.

“Women, children, the elderly, and other vulnerable groups are bearing the brunt of a brutal conflict in which dozens of armed groups battle over territory,” WFP said in a statement.

Tens of thousands of people over the past two and a half months have been “chased from their homes… often fleeing with just the clothes they are wearing,” the agency said.

“These recent movements bring the total number of displaced people across the country to over 200,000,” it added.

WFP and its partners have distributed 550,000 hot meals since mid-August, but funding cuts mean the agency has often only been able to provide one meal a day instead of the usual two.

“We urgently need $136 million to meet the needs of the most vulnerable Haitians over the next six months,” said Jean-Martin Bauer, WFP’s country director in Haiti.

The agency said it was in the process of shifting from serving hot meals to providing cash assistance to displaced people, to allow families to choose their food while also boosting the local economy.