Image of Haiti
According to the UN, the figure is about half of the total AFP

Lack of food, schooling and overall chaos. Those are the circumstances that have created an environment where a sizable amount of children ended as members of the criminal organizations currently sowing chaos in Haiti.

Local outlet Ayibo Post detailed some of the individual stories that illustrate this statistic, which the United Nations puts between 30% and 50%. The outlet said its own investigation believes the stat to be "exaggerated," but does recognize "a solid presence" in the gangs.

The UN added that children are often forced to join the groups "either because they cannot otherwise provide for their family's needs, or because they or their family are under threat." "large number of children also enter these groups after being separated from their families because they have no other way to survive and benefit from protection."

Recruitment has reportedly accelerated as gangs await the deployment of an international force led by Kenya, a 2,500-strong force tasked with helping local forces quash the organizations and restore the country's institutions. However, the forces arrival continues to face delays: last week, a Kenyan court postponed a hearing on a new lawsuit against the deployment of the forces for another two weeks.

Children are used as informants, spies, security guards, smugglers of arms and ammunitions, fighters or hostage takers, a local organization helping children recover from this experience told the outlet. Some also buy drugs and take part in looting expeditions.

"Children in Haiti are caught in a vicious cycle of suffering: they are driven to join armed groups out of sheer desperation, particularly because of violence, poverty and the collapse of the systems that should protect them," said Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF.

"They all lose not only their innocence, but also any connection with their community. This situation has tragic consequences for each of the children concerned. It is therefore necessary to take concrete measures aimed at guaranteeing as a priority the protection and well-being of children in Haiti," she added.

The UN said that over half a million children in the country live in neighborhoods controlled by armed groups, which puts them in increased danger of being recruited.

Haiti continues to face an uncertain scenario, although it's taking steps toward rebuilding its institutions. Last week, newly-appointed prime minister Garry Conille announced the formation of a new transitional government.

Conille held a ceremony to announce who will be his 14 ministers (down from the originally planned 18) after days of negotiations with the members of the transitional council, which represent the country's different political parties and sectors.

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