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Men on motorcycles drive past burning tyres in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo: TNS

Unicef head says Haiti situation nears chaos of Mad Max

  • Situation in impoverished Haiti is the ‘worst in decades’, Unicef’s Catherine Russell says
  • Gang-fuelled chaos has created a dire humanitarian situation on the Caribbean island

The UN children’s agency chief offered a dire assessment on Sunday of the chaotic situation in Haiti, saying it was “almost like a scene out of Mad Max”, a 1979 film that depicts a violent and lawless post-apocalyptic future.

“Haiti is a horrific situation,” Unicef executive director Catherine Russell told CBS talk show Face the Nation.

“Many, many people there are suffering from serious hunger and malnutrition and we’re not able to get enough aid to them,” with gangs controlling large parts of capital Port-au-Prince as well as key roads leading elsewhere.

The situation is “the worst that anyone has seen in decades”, she said.


Haiti’s future in limbo as country’s top gang leader issues warning to transition council candidates

Haiti’s future in limbo as country’s top gang leader issues warning to transition council candidates

“It’s almost like a scene out of Mad Max. That’s what it seems like,” Russell said.

Haiti, already hit by drought, natural disaster and weak government, has seen “the near-collapse of basic services”, a recent United Nations report warned.

That has left millions vulnerable as they await the formation of a transitional governing council to take power after unpopular Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned under pressure.

The challenges facing foreign aid workers – some of whom have been attacked or kidnapped for ransom – were underlined on Saturday when gangs looted a Unicef shipment intended to provide relief for suffering mothers and children.

“Today, Unicef’s container, containing crucial supplies for maternal, neonatal and child health, was looted at Port-au-Prince’s main port,” the agency’s Haitian account posted Saturday on X, formerly Twitter.

“This incident occurred at a critical moment when children needed them the most.”

As life grows more difficult for Haitians and foreigners, the US embassy said on Saturday it was organising a charter flight to evacuate its citizens from Haiti. Non-essential embassy staff were evacuated six days earlier.

Haiti has been convulsed for two weeks by a gang uprising, as brutal and well-armed groups – their numbers swollen after an attack on two prisons freed thousands of inmates – seek to topple Henry.

Meanwhile, efforts are continuing to organise a Kenyan-led security mission to back up the Caribbean island’s overwhelmed police force.