Canada, United States urge citizens to leave Haiti amid growing unrest

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The governments of the United States and Canada are urging their citizens to leave Haiti due to the country’s growing insecurity and severe fuel shortages affecting hospitals, schools and banks. Petrol stations were closed on Thursday.

The rare warning from the US State Department comes as the Haitian government and police are struggling to control gangs that have blocked fuel distribution terminals for several weeks.

“Widespread fuel shortages can limit essential services in an emergency, including access to banks, money transfers, urgent medical care, the Internet and telecommunications, and public and private transportation options,” the State Department warned Wednesday. . “The US embassy is unlikely to be able to assist US citizens in Haiti in their departure if commercial options are not available.”

It is not clear how many US citizens currently live in Haiti. A State Department official told The Associated Press that it does not provide such statistics and that US citizens are not required to record their travel to a foreign country.

Canada withdraws non-essential employees

Canada also issued a similar warning on Wednesday: “If you are in Haiti and your presence is not essential, consider leaving if you can do so safely.”

Global Affairs Canada said Thursday that it is temporarily withdrawing non-essential Canadian employees and family members of Canadian embassy staff in the country.

On Thursday, people pass a closed gas station in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Matias Delacroix / Associated Press)

“The safety of Canadians is our top priority at all times and, to that end, our embassy in Port-au-Prince remains open,” the statement said.

The warnings come as US and Haitian authorities are trying to secure the safe release of 17 members of an Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries missionary group who were kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang on October 5. 16. There are five children in the group of 16 US citizens and one Canadian. Their Haitian driver was also kidnapped.

“Serious upheavals and unrest”

“We ask that they continue to pray for the kidnappers, so that God may sweeten their hearts,” the organization said in a statement Wednesday. “As you pray, remember the millions of Haitians who are suffering in a time of great upheaval and unrest.”

On Tuesday, senior Haitian government officials acknowledged the widespread lack of fuel at a press conference and said they were working to resolve the situation, although they did not provide details.

Defense Minister Enold Joseph said the government was investigating why 30 fuel tanks sent to the southern region of Haiti went missing, adding that he had observed the sale of gasoline on the black market.

In addition, the newspaper Le Nouvelliste recently reported that truckers were kidnapped and fuel trucks were hijacked.

‘Everything is upside down’

“Everything is upside down,” said Pierre Alex, a 35-year-old who works in a factory that makes clothes hangers. She said her son can’t go to school but he can’t work at home either because there is no electricity and no internet. “I don’t know which saints to call to help me.”

The fuel shortage has also threatened Haiti’s water supply, which depends on generators, and hospitals in Port-au-Prince and beyond.

A police officer patrols Thursday at an intersection in Port-au-Prince. (Matias Delacroix / Associated Press)

Marc Edson Augustin, director of St. Luke Hospital, said he can only treat 50 patients with COVID-19 despite having 120 beds reserved for them because the company that supplies oxygen to the institution has been hit by the lack of fuel.

On Wednesday, Médecins Sans Frontières warned that the shortage has forced it to cut back on medical care since last week, with staff treating only patients with life-threatening conditions. The rescue group said its hospital and emergency center will run out of fuel for the generators in three weeks or less if no new supplies arrive.

Spike in food prices

“As tensions and armed conflicts escalate in the Haitian capital, shortages of fuel, public transport and clean water are putting medical facilities and patients at risk,” the aid group said. “Almost all public and private health facilities in Port-au-Prince have interrupted or limited admissions to acute cases only or have closed their doors due to similar problems.”

The rescue group said a patient with breathing difficulties was recently turned down at four different medical centers because lack of fuel forced them to stop hospitalizations. A fifth facility welcomed it, officials said.

Doctors Without Borders also said that lack of fuel prevents staff from reaching the hospital due to the shortage of public transport. It’s a problem seen elsewhere, with parents unable to send their children to school and some employees unable to go to work.

The situation has also led to a spike in food prices in a country of over 11 million people where over 60 percent of the population earns less than $ 2 a day. Meanwhile, a gallon (about 3.8 liters) of gasoline, when available, currently costs $ 15 US.

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