Jackson stayed out for more than a week as gunfire went on in his impoverished neighborhood in the Haitian capital, in hopes that would help end a bloody war between rival gangs.
“For eight days, the gunfire continued, but we thought the police was going to intervene,” he said.
But the police never showed up. So like thousands of others, Jackson — 29 — ran away from his home with nothing but the clothes he was wearing.
Clashes between rival gangs in the Dalit slums of northern Port-au-Prince have claimed the lives of at least 75 people, including women and children, since the all-out war began on April 24, the United Nations said on Friday.
The world body said it was “very concerned by the rapid deterioration of the security situation” in the city.
“According to multiple sources, at least 75 people, including women and children, have been killed and 68 others have been injured,” the UN statement said.
It said at least 9,000 residents of the conflict-hit northern suburbs have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge with relatives or in temporary shelters such as churches and schools.
Jackson stayed out until last Sunday. He was just returning from the church when a fight broke out at his door.
“I had no idea that members of the ‘400 Mawozo’ gang had managed to cross the bridge next to their house, Jackson said, referring to the most feared of all the gangs.
“All of a sudden I heard neighbors shouting, ‘They are at Shada crossroads,’ which meant they were 30, 40 meters away from me. I had my identity card, my driver’s license and my insurance card. I took my passport and ran away,” he said.
As he passed a nearby gas station, he saw gang members blaming motorcycle taxi drivers who were on the lookout for a rival gang. “So they shot them,” Jackson said.
For decades, armed gangs have roared in the poorest areas of Port-au-Prince, but in recent years they have expanded their hold in the Haitian capital and across the country, with murders and kidnappings skyrocketing.
The United Nations condemned the “excessive violence” of the gangs, saying that local sources have recorded “acts of sexual violence, including the gang rape of children under the age of 10 and the local population living in rival-controlled areas.” Terror and intimidation are involved. Gangs.”
The UN children’s agency, UNICEF, has warned of the impact of gangs on children’s education.
“In Haiti, 500,000 children have lost access to education due to gang-related violence,” it said on Friday. “There are currently approximately 1,700 schools closed in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince.”
“No child can go to school while bullets are flying in the air, it is dangerous and should not happen,” said Bruno Mays, UNICEF representative in Haiti.
The United Nations Office in Haiti has also expressed concern over children being recruited into armed gangs.
The Haitian government has yet to comment on the latest outbreak of violence that has put the capital under siege, preventing any safe exit by road to the rest of the country.
Last October, the powerful “400 Mawozo” gang kidnapped a group of 17 North American missionaries and their relatives, including five children.
The district where the violence took place is highly strategic: it has the only road access between the north of the country as well as between the capital of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Since June, the authorities have also lost control of the only road connecting Port-au-Prince to the south. For an extension of 2 km, the highway is completely under the control of armed criminals from the slums of Martisant.
Gangs in Martinique have forced Doctors Without Borders, an international medical non-profit, to close a hospital that had been operating there for 15 years.
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