UN Chief Says Haiti Urgently Needs International Security Force And Humanitarian Aid

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres visited Haiti on Saturday and again called on foreign governments with strong security forces to help the struggling country fight a surge in gang violence.

The appeal was made after Guterres met with Prime Minister Ariel Henry, civil society leaders, U.N. staff and the heads of various political parties during his one-day trip.

"Now is not the time to forget Haiti or weaken our solidarity with its people," he said.

Guterres met with reporters at Haiti's international airport in Port-au-Prince, who pressed him on whether an international security force would be deployed as requested by the prime minister last October.

Guterres said he spoke about the issue with Henry, as well as the need to hold credible elections.

"I am not here to tell Haitians what to do. I am here to listen to them and to encourage them to build consensus as broadly as possible to move the transition process forward," he said.

Henry, who has been running the country since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, has been under pressure to hold elections. But experts have noted it is impossible to do so given the current level of violence in the country, with gangs controlling an estimated 80% of the capital.

There are no democratically elected institutions left in Haiti, with the country failing to hold legislative elections since October 2019.

"Haiti must return to democratic order as soon as possible," Guterres said.

He also said Haiti urgently needs more humanitarian aid as poverty deepens and starvation cases spike. Gangs are preventing the movement of goods and people and controlling access to water, food and health care as civilians attempt to fight back via a violent uprising.

"I felt all the exhaustion of a population that has been facing for too long a cascade of crises and unsustainable living conditions," Guterres said. "One in two people in Haiti live in extreme poverty, face hunger and lack regular access to drinking water."

Guterres' visit came just days after the U.N.'s human rights expert in Haiti visited the country and also called for an international security force and a weapons embargo.

Guterres is scheduled to attend a summit Sunday in Trinidad and Tobago held by Caricom, a Caribbean trade bloc.