People fleeing a bout of violence in Haiti AFP

Violence in Haiti has spread to rural areas as chaos continues to engulf the country, with a recent episode resulting in over ten deaths following a clash between gangs and locals.

According to The Miami Herald, the incident took place when a group of heavily armed men reached the communities of Lagon and Grand Plaine with the goal of kidnapping a local teacher.

Residents, however, set up barricades and tried to prevent them from reaching their goal, also throwing rocks. Gang members responded by opening fire, killing 11 people and setting about a dozen houses on fire, according to Hubert Cénéac, the mayor of a nearby community. The teacher who the gang had gone out to get died during the clash.

"For the first time in their history, they are living in a situation where they are prisoners in their own country, they are prisoners in their own communities, they cannot move, they can't evacuate, they feel exposed," Cénéac added, saying that locals are left to fend on their own as there is no police left in most areas of the country.

A recent report by the International Organization for Migration showed that nearly 580,000 people have been internally displaced across the country, a 60% increase since March.

"The figures we see today are a direct consequence of years of spiraling violence – that reached a new high in February - and its catastrophic humanitarian impact," said Philippe Branchat, head of the IOM in Haiti. "The unending crisis in Haiti is pushing more and more people to flee their homes and leave everything behind. This is not something they do lightly. What's more, for many of them, this is not the first time."

The report added that practically all of the internally displaced are being hosted by communities "already struggling with overburdened social services and poor infrastructure, raising further concerns about tensions with the potential to spark future violence."

In the capital, Port-au-Prince, two thirds of those displaced live in "spontaneous sites with very limited access to basic services." "Schools and learning institutions currently make up 39 of the 96 active displacement sites and host 61,000 people, severely limiting school attendance. Sustainable, decent employment opportunities, equal access to basic services, and access to education for both IDPs and host communities are urgently needed," the release adds.

Figures continue increasing while local law enforcement awaits for the deployment of an international mission tasked with helping fight against the criminal organizations. Last week, Haitian police leaders met with Kenya's general police inspector in Nairobi. "We are ready and committed to helping when needed," said the Kenyan official, Japhet Koome, during the meeting.

Forces were supposed to start arriving on May 23 to coincide with a visit by Kenyan President William Ruto to the White House. However, the decision was postponed on different occasions due to legal challenges in Kenya and doubts about the role they will play in Haiti. As things move forward, forces are now expected to land in the country in late June.

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