10 February 2004 The acting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today expressed concern about fatal clashes between pro- and anti-government militias in Haiti and called on all sides to resolve the political crisis peacefully.
In a statement released in Geneva, Bertrand Ramcharan deplored the killings and destruction over the past week in the Haitian cities of Gonaives and St. Marc and condemned the use of violence on all sides.
He urged the Haitian authorities to bring those responsible for serious acts of violence and human rights violations to justice.
Gonaives was the launching pad for Haiti's declaration of independence from the French in 1804, as well as a subsequent number of coups d'etat.
UN spokesperson Jose Luis Diaz said the world body's human rights office wanted to put a representative in Haiti to work with members of other international organizations.
Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said an inter-agency mission, including representatives of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme (WFP), UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), UN Security Coordinator (UNSECOORD) and OCHA, arrived in Port-au-Prince on Sunday.
The mission is assessing the humanitarian situation, updating the contingency plan in a deteriorating situation, and coordinating UN activities.
Fifty per cent of Haiti's 8 million people are jobless and 47 per cent live on less than $1 a day, OCHA said. The food crisis is likely to worsen and only 45 per cent of the population has access to safe drinking water. Hunger has been compounded by alarming environmental degradation, since Haiti is nearly 90 per cent deforested.
Recent floods unleashed by Tropical Storm Odette last December left nearly 25,000 people without food in the northern part of the country, according to OCHA.