The United Nations is launching a campaign to address the ongoing problem of rape in Haiti since the devastating earthquake which hit the island nation in January.
Rape has become extremely prevalent in the camps set up for those displaced by the quake.
“I remain concerned by the situation in the camps where vulnerable groups, particularly women and children, are at risk of sexual and gender-based violence” Edmund Mulet, head of the U.N. stabilization mission in Haiti, told the Associated Press.
Mulet told the U.N. Security Council that police and soldiers in the U.N.’s peacekeeping force are being trained both to address rape and sexual violence at the camps and to deliver medical care. He said the U.N. is also on the ground trying to teach displaced citizens how to prevent and report rape and other sexual violence.
The unstable country has another reason to stop the prevalence of rape in the camps: a high rate of HIV/AIDS. According to UNICEF, over 120,000 people are living with HIV in Haiti, more than half of them are women.
The UN support may bolster the country’s own AIDS services, which have lacked the resources needed to combat the disease, Charles King, CEO of Housing Works, a New York-based organization that combats AIDS and homelessness, told the AFRO.
“I would hope that this provides us an opportunity to rethink how we do HIV/AIDS care,” King said. “Not just have a new influx of more international involvement taking over, but providing resources and technical assistance to local organizations and helping them build the capacity to address the epidemic themselves.”
However, progress on both fronts may be impossible, if the planned November elections don’t provide stability for the country. Mulet said the elections must be “credible and legitimate” to ensure security.
“Institutional weakness, combined with the displaced persons’ camps, the resurgence of gang activity and the characteristic instability of the Haitian electoral season, contribute to creating a volatile security environment,” said Mulet.