Haiti: Spike in violence feared unless urgent action taken

27 June 2024

Children in Haiti could face new dangers as international security forces deploy to tackle the violent armed groups overrunning the country’s Capital, unless robust child protection measures are in place, said a group of aid agencies.

Save the Children, Plan International and World Vision are concerned that armed groups in Haiti will respond forcefully to the UN-backed Multinational Security Support mission (MSS), expected to deploy this month, putting children at significant new risks of being caught in the crossfire.

Once the MSS land in Haiti, security forces will encounter civilians—including children – as well as children involved with armed groups. With up to half of all armed group members in the country estimated to be children, the risk of child casualties is significant. The aid agencies have also received alarming reports of these groups using children and adolescents in confrontations with the Haitian National Police, including as human shields, and are deeply concerned they could again be caught in the crossfire.

Children’s rights and safety must be prioritised

Save the Children, Plan International and World Vision are urgently calling on the MSS to prioritise children’s rights and safety by ensuring that the deploying forces have dedicated child protection expertise in place and child safeguarding training ahead of their deployment. They also call on the forces to be trained on the prevention of gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and abuse to ensure greater protection for girls and women.

Despite the Security Council’s request that the MSS will “ensure the highest standards of transparency and conduct,” the MSS has yet to disclose publicly what training has occurred, their concept of operations, and what rules of engagement, lines of command, oversight and accountability mechanisms it has established. Monitoring the impact of the UNMSS during the next hurricane season is also key.

The aid organisations demand transparency and assurances from the MSS that their forces have adopted robust child protection measures, undergone pre-deployment training on child safeguarding, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) and gender-based violence, and have comprehensive plans for continued post-deployment rights training. Moreover, all security forces to be deployed in Haiti must fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law and respect for human rights.

Children are being driven to join armed groups

An increasing number of children have been driven to join armed groups due to hunger and desperation. These children are victims of child rights violations, and must be treated as children, not as militias.

Children and families in Port-au-Prince have been living in a constant state of fear and danger for months on end. Violence involving armed groups has already jumped by more than 140% this year compared to 2021.

The security force must learn from the failures of past international missions and fully adopt all human rights and safeguarding measures laid out in their Security Council Mandate. Children’s lives depend on it.