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Haiti: UN to help local authorities fight rash of child kidnappings

Haiti: UN to help local authorities fight rash of child kidnappings

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti has vowed to help local authorities fight a resurgence in the kidnapping of young children, three of whom were found murdered in the past two weeks.

“These barbarous acts surpass the limits of human comprehension,” UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) spokesperson Sophie Boutaud de la Combe told a news conference yesterday in Port-au-Prince, the capital.

After a significant improvement during the first months of the year, five little girls and three little boys, most of them younger than four, have been kidnapped.

The kidnapping have occurred at a time when MINUSTAH, set up in 2004 to help re-establish peace in the impoverished Caribbean country after an insurgency forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to go into exile, has been helping Haitian police crack down on armed criminal gangs, resulting in the capture of more than 400 gangsters since the beginning of the year.

As a result of those successful operations one of the violence-ridden country’s most dangerous areas, the Cité Soleil neighbourhood in the capital, now has a mayor, officially installed on Wednesday.

“This is a new page for Cité Soleil, but there is still a long way to go and MINUSTAH will continue to support the Haitian authorities in consolidating the situation in this neighbourhood,” Ms. Boutaud de la Combe said.

MINUSTAH contingents, sometimes 600-strong, joined with Haitian police in sweeps through Cité Soleil in recent weeks, capturing gang leaders and their minions who had been terrorizing the neighbourhood and seizing caches of weapons and ammunition.

They then restored badly needed health, medical and water services, rehabilitated schools that the gangs used as their headquarters, turned their lairs into social service centres and built sports fields and other facilities for a population that has suffered from years of gun violence and extortion.

The mission is also helping local authorities recover from floods and landslides caused by heavy rains in various parts of the country. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has already shipped in food for hundreds of victims in the northeast and is planning to help hundreds more in the north.