UN calls for ‘humanitarian corridor’ in Haiti as gang blockade drags on

1 min read

By Brian Ellsworth and Harold Isaac

(Reuters) -The United Nations on Thursday called for the creation of a “humanitarian corridor” in Haiti that would allow the distribution of fuel amid dire shortages created by a gang blockade of the country’s principal fuel terminal.

Gangs last month blocked the entrance to the Varreux fuel terminal to protest Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s announcement of a cut in fuel subsidies, paralyzing Haiti’s economy as supplies of gasoline and diesel dried up.

Haitians also face a shortage of drinking water amid an outbreak of cholera, the spread of which is controlled through hygiene and clean water.

“The blocking of the Varreux Terminal, the main entry point for fuel in Haiti, has led to the closure of health centers over the last weeks now, and caused the interruption of water treatment services and private treated water production and distribution companies,” the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Office in Haiti wrote in a statement.

The agency called for “the immediate opening of a humanitarian corridor to allow the release of fuel to meet the urgent needs of the population.”

Such an arrangement would likely require reaching a deal with gangs to allow fuel trucks through. Gang leaders have not yet signaled willingness to do so.

Gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, who goes by the nickname Barbecue, appeared in an online video standing at the entrance of the fuel terminal in front a trench that had dirt piled behind it.

“We are sending this message to Ariel Henry: ‘Resign. Resign to give the country a chance’,” he said. “For the moment, you are the one executing the plan to destroy the Haitian people. We are removing you because of that.”

Henry on Wednesday made a broad plea to the international community to help with the situation in Haiti, where vast portions of the country are under the control of gangs.

Earlier on Thursday, people sacked a warehouse belonging to U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, an agency official said in a phone interview, signaling the growing desperation caused by the shortages.

U.S. lawmakers last week said the United States should sanction Haitian gangs and those who help finance them.

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Harold Isaac; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Mark Porter and Sandra Maler)