Increasingly sophisticated and high-calibre firearms and ammunition are being trafficked into Haiti, fuelling an ongoing surge of gang violence that has plagued residents for months, according to a new UN assessment released on Thursday.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report, Haiti’s criminal markets: mapping trends in firearms and drug trafficking, warns that a recent increase in arms seizures alongside intelligence and law enforcement reporting, suggests trafficking of weapons is on the rise.
“By providing a rapid assessment of illicit firearms and drug trafficking, this UNODC study seeks to shed light on the trafficking flows enabling gangs in Haiti and fuelling further violence in a volatile and desperate situation to help inform responses and support to the people of Haiti,” said Angela Me, Chief of the UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Branch.
Gang violence fuelling cholera
Gang-related violence in Haiti has reached levels not seen in decades, the UN Secretary-General stated in his January report to the Security Council – compounding the severity of a cholera outbreak, increasing food insecurity, displacing thousands, and keeping children out of school.
At the same time, the incidence of homicides, kidnappings, and displacement is rising across Haiti, which is suffering the worst human rights and humanitarian emergency in decades. Authorities reported 2,183 homicides and 1,359 kidnappings in 2022, almost double the number of cases for the previous year.
As the UNODC assessment has shown, Haiti remains a trans-shipment country for drugs – primarily cocaine – and cannabis entering via boat or plane at public, private, and informal ports, as well as clandestine runways.
Haiti’s porous borders – including 1,771 kilometres of coastline and a 392-kilometre land border with the Dominican Republic – are severely challenging the capacities of the under-resourced and under-staffed national police, customs, border patrols and coast guard, who are themselves targeted by gangs, UNODC said.
The assessment also provides an overview of international, regional, and national responses to date, including efforts to increase support to Haiti’s law enforcement and border management.
It also spotlights the need for comprehensive approaches encompassing investments in community policing, criminal justice reform, and anti-corruption investigations.