(Al Jazeera) Criminal violence in Haiti intensified this week, with fighting among rival gangs in part of the capital killing at least 20 people, among them children, and leading to thousands having to flee their homes.
Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency (DPA) said the fighting began Sunday in four neighbourhoods in Port-au-Prince, north of the international airport. At least a dozen homes were burned down and many of those who fled initially took shelter in the yard of a local mayor’s office.
The eruption comes amid a spike in violence and kidnappings as gangs grow more powerful and seek to control more territory amid the power vacuum following the July 7, 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
The situation has angered and frustrated many Haitians, who are demanding action from Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s administration, which is receiving international help to boost an underfunded and understaffed police force.
Henry’s term in office expired on February 7, but no date has been set for elections, amid political deadlock over how and when to hold a vote.
A family of eight, including six children, was among those killed since Sunday, authorities said Wednesday.
Schools and businesses in the area remain closed as thousands of families with children are camping in a park near a local mayor’s office.
“They need water, food, supplies,” Jean Raymond Dorcely, who runs a small grassroots community organisation, told the Associated Press. “They had to leave with nothing in their hands.”
He said that the neighbourhood is usually quiet and that his child often plays in the park now turned into a makeshift outdoor shelter.
“I can see kids crying because they’re hungry and families don’t have anything to provide to them,” he said, adding that needs were growing as the fighting continued. “I don’t know what it’s going to be like tomorrow.”