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Haiti closing schools as children drift toward armed gangs

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Haiti is closing schools in poverty-stricken parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince, as children drift toward armed gangs, community groups warned on Friday.

The Koz Pa’m NGO, which helps young people displaying violent behaviour to reintegrate into society, said that increased numbers were joining armed groups and committing “acts of banditry” due to a lack of access to education.

It said that those in the Carrefour Feuilles and Solino areas of the capital were particularly susceptible.

“Children are in vulnerable conditions. The unsafe environment drags them into violence,” said Koz Pa’m president Jean-Robert Pierre.

He insisted that the government must address the worsening situation after Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe promised to restore a climate of peace in Haiti.

Mr Jouthe has deployed police into gang-controlled areas, but his efforts have had limited results.

According to the Haitian Studies Association, thousands of people have been displaced in the last two years, while kidnappings rose from 39 to nearly 200.

But Mr Pierre said that more support was necessary to stop children from joining armed gangs.

“Despite the wave of violence, we believe the government can do more to ensure children’s access to education,” he said.

About 60 per cent of Haiti’s population lives below the poverty line, but kidnappers demanded ransoms of up to $1 million (£700,000) in 2019.

MS

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