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Canada withdrawing non-essential staff from Haitian embassy amid security concerns

Gang-related violence in the country and a severe fuel shortage fuel concerns
Homes stand densely packed in the Jalouise neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matias Delacroix

Canada is temporarily withdrawing non-essential staff from its embassy in Haiti in response to a spike in gang-related violence in the country and a severe fuel shortage.

And while Global Affairs Canada says the embassy in Port-au-Prince does remain open, all Canadians are being told to avoid non-essential travel to the country.

The move to evacuate some Canadian diplomats and their families comes as Haiti’s government and police are struggling to control gangs that have blocked fuel distribution terminals for several weeks.

On Tuesday top Haitian government officials acknowledged the widespread lack of fuel during a news conference and said they were working to resolve the situation, although they provided no details.

Defense Minister Enold Joseph said the government is investigating why 30 fuel tanks sent to Haiti’s southern region went missing, adding that he has observed gasoline being sold on the black market.

In addition, Le Nouvelliste newspaper recently reported that truck drivers have been kidnapped and fuel trucks hijacked.

The fuel shortage comes as Haiti is still recovering from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in July. It has threatened the country’s water supply, which depends on generators, and hospitals in Port-au-Prince and beyond.

On Wednesday, Doctors Without Borders warned that the shortages have forced it to reduce medical care since last week, with staff treating only patients with life-threatening conditions.

The aid group said that its hospital and emergency centre will run out of fuel for generators in three weeks or less if new supplies don’t arrive.

The situation also has led to a spike in food prices in a country of more than 11 million people where more than 60 per cent of the population makes less than US$2 a day. Meanwhile, a gallon of gasoline, when available, currently costs US$15.

—The Canadian Press

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