CAFOD sister agencies are warning of a developing humanitarian emergency in Haiti as a result of the escalating conflict there. Caritas Haiti says violent confrontations between government supporters and rebels have led the country to the verge of a widespread civil war. Police stations have been abandoned in more than ten towns, leaving the civil population without protection from heavily armed rebel fighters. An increasing number of civilians are on the move in an attempt to flee the fighting. The high degree of insecurity and violence has severely limited the capacity of humanitarian organisations to operate. Caritas Haiti Director Fr Wilnes Tilus said: "Haiti is currently experiencing a situation of extreme urgency. The country is on the brink of civil war, with civilians being caught between pro and anti government forces. The collapse of health services is making it extremely difficult to give medical assistance to the victims of the fighting. Vulnerable populations are cut off from food and their livelihoods by the conflict. "The situation of anarchy, of institutionalised violence, and of insecurity contributes to worsening the already precarious situation for the people. At least four million Haitians, half of the population, already live in a situation of constant food insecurity. However, Haiti does not need a massive influx of food aid, which will cause long-term harm to its farmers." Caritas Haiti argues against French calls for international militarily intervention. Fr Wilnes Tilus said: "The priority is for the re-establishment of governance and security. But this must not serve as a pretext for the international community to intervene militarily once again in Haiti. Any military intervention in the current crisis would not be sustainable unless the structural causes of the conflict are addressed - notably an extremely unequal and polarised society, increasing poverty, and the exclusion of the great majority of the population from spheres of power." Caritas Haiti says there is a climate of terror, where human rights and basic civil liberties are being denied. Caritas workers say both police and the opposition are breaking Geneva conventions by violating humanitarian spaces such as schools, universities, and hospitals during the fighting. CAFOD's Head of Latin America Section Clare Dixon said: "The humanitarian situation in Haiti looks bleak. The international community must show solidarity with the Haitians, while all sides in the conflict must respect the Geneva conventions and guarantee the basic rights of Haitian civilians, especially the right to life." Caritas Haiti and other aid agencies are calling for the international community to condemn all acts of political violence in Haiti, and for appropriate sanctions to be taken against those responsible for these acts. The aid agencies also say the international community must prevent all arms trafficking to Haiti. Caritas Haiti operates throughout the country, working on healthcare, nutrition, and HIV/AIDS.
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