Most of the victims were not directly involved in gangs, UN human rights office says, adding that there have also been reports of sexual violence.

The bloodshed has come alongside soaring food prices and chronic fuel shortages — a toxic mix that has accelerated a brutal downward spiral in the security situation.
The bloodshed has come alongside soaring food prices and chronic fuel shortages — a toxic mix that has accelerated a brutal downward spiral in the security situation. (AFP)

Gang violence has killed or injured at least 234 people from July 8-12 in Haiti's Cite Soleil, an impoverished and densely populated neighbourhood of the capital Port-au-Prince, according to the United Nations.

"Most of the victims were not directly involved in gangs and were directly targeted by gang elements. We have also received new reports of sexual violence," UN human rights office spokesperson Jeremy Laurence said on Saturday.

"We are deeply concerned by the worsening of violence in Port-au-Prince and the rise in human rights abuses committed by heavily armed gangs against the local population," Laurence said.

"We urge the authorities to ensure that all human rights are protected and placed at the front and centre of their responses to the crisis."

For the six months from January to June, the UN human rights office put the death toll at 934, with 684 more people wounded. A total of 680 kidnappings also occurred during that period, it said.

READ MORE: Rival gangs in 'battlefield' Haiti suburb kill dozens

Deadly unrest

The recent unrest erupted between two rival factions. The city's ill-equipped and understaffed police failed to intervene, trapping residents in their homes, unable to go out for even food and water.

With many houses in the slums made of sheet metal, residents fell victim to stray bullets. Ambulances were unable to reach those in need.

"We call on those responsible and supporting this armed violence to immediately desist, and to respect the lives and livelihoods of all Haitians, most of whom live in extreme poverty," Laurence said.

Mumuza Muhindo, head of the local mission of Doctors Without Borders, said his group had operated on an average of 15 patients a day during the spike in violence. "It's a real battlefield," Muhindo said.

The bloodshed in Haiti has come alongside soaring food prices and chronic fuel shortages — a toxic mix that has accelerated a brutal downward spiral in the security situation in Port-au-Prince.

Cite Soleil is home to an oil terminal that supplies the capital and all of northern Haiti, so the clashes have had a devastating effect on the region's economy and people's daily lives.

Petrol stations in Port-au-Prince have no petrol to sell, causing prices on the black market to skyrocket.

"We are seeing a significant increase in hunger in the capital and in the south of the country, with Port-au-Prince hit the hardest," Jean-Martin Bauer, director of the World Food Programme, said on Tuesday.

For the past several years, Haiti has seen a wave of mass kidnappings, as gangs snatch people of all walks of life, including foreigners, off the streets. Emboldened by police inaction, gangs have become increasingly brazen.

READ MORE: Haiti gang violence leaves dozens dead

Source: AFP