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Americas

Crime blights the lives of poverty-stricken Haitians

Video by Philippe LEVASSEUR

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-11-26

The massive earthquake that devastated Haiti in January caused much of Port-au-Prince to collapse, including the city's main prison. The result has been chronic insecurity and a steep rise in sexual violence.

Overcrowded, and with no electricity, the refugee camps of Port-au-Prince are high-risk zones, rife with crime.

Giselle lives in one of the major camps near the city centre. She says she was raped twice inside the camp by masked men when she went looking for water.
 
“When they fled, I went to the police to register a complaint,” she told FRANCE 24. “The police told me there was nothing they could do. They even said that if I wanted them to investigate, I had to pay them 1,000 dollars for fuel for their vehicles."
 
The police are almost completely absent from the streets of Port-au-Prince.
 
The central police station and the two main prisons have not been rebuilt since January’s devastating earthquake, which reduced much of the city to rubble.
 
None of the 5,000 prisoners who escaped the prison have been found.
 
Gisele is being helped by victim support organisation Kanfaviv, which has reported a ten-fold increase in cases of sexual abuse since the quake.
 
Konfaviv director Malya Villard says she had just seen two five-year-old girls who had been raped the previous night.
 
"The prisoners who escaped are the ones creating terror in the camps,” she told FRANCE 24. “There has never been so much violence.”
 
The only visible security force here is the UN mission, whose peacekeepers patrol around the ruined presidential palace.
 
There are 12,000 of them in the country, including French policemen.
 
But they have a limited mandate and are unable to enforce the law. The peacekeepers can only intervene in extremely rare circumstances and are often powerless.
 
"We can’t interfere in anything,” one French UN policeman said. “We are not part of the national system in Haiti."
 
On election day, UN peacekeepers will be deployed at all 1500 polling stations across the country.

 

Date created : 2010-11-25

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