The United Nations Security Council will extend its peacekeeping mission in Haiti for another six months, officials announced on Thursday.
The council’s decision comes as the world body announced that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be traveling to Haiti on Saturday. The visit, which is supposed to last several hours, is scheduled to include a trip to Les Cayes, one of the hardest hit areas, along with provisional President Jocelerme Privert.
The U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH, has been engaged in relief and recovery efforts since Hurricane Matthew barreled through southwestern Haiti on Oct. 4.
Convoys of U.N. vehicles have been transporting humanitarian aid to the five regions most impacted by the storm while troops also have been removing debris clogging rivers and blocking roads. On Tuesday, United Nations escort troops fired non-lethal ammunition to disperse crowds attempting to loot a humanitarian convoy in Les Cayes.
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The U.N. mission, which has been in Haiti for 12 years, was supposed to wrap up this year, though no specific date had been announced. But the lack of an elected government in Haiti means there is no legitimate authority to complete the handover. The hope is that Haiti can soon return to constitutional order with an elected president.
Earlier this week, Ban wrote to the U.N. Security Council on Haiti, recommending the six month extension because of the prolonged political crisis triggered by last year's presidential elections and resulting accusations of widespread fraud as alleged by candidates, religious and human rights groups, and local observers.
“Nearly 18 months after embarking on the path to elections in order to renew the country’s democratic institutions at all levels, the people of Haiti have yet to see the completion of the electoral process which began in March 2015,” Ban said in his latest report.
The provisional president’s mandate also expired more than two months ago, he noted, yet the National Assembly has not adopted measures to ensure that the government can keep functioning.
“For the second time this year, Haiti is confronted with political and institutional uncertainty affecting the highest office of the state,” he said.
Hurricane Matthew only complicated matters.
Last week, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council postponed the country’s Oct. 9 rerun of the presidential and legislative elections. The electoral council is expected to announce a new date on Friday.
Sources say at least two dates, Nov. 6 and Nov. 13, are under consideration. Sme observers in the international community want elections to be scheduled for the end of November or early December to give the country time to address the storm’s aftermath. At least 300 schools, which are often used as polling stations, were damaged or destroyed in the storm.
Saturday’s visit by Ban will be his third to Haiti in recent years. He visited after the Jan. 12, 2010,earthquake, accompanied by former U.S. President and U.N. Special Envoy Bill Clinton, and later to launch a $2.2 billion cholera response plan.
Ban was expected to announce a new U.N. plan for cholera this month. Containing a resurgence of the water-borne disease, which was linked to U.N. peacekeepers in 2010, has been a top priority for Haitian authorities after the hurricane.
The non-profit Doctors Without Borders reported it is treating a number of Haitians in storm-ravaged communities for cholera, including 87 patients in Port-a-Piment outside of Les Cayes in the southwest and 16 in Les Anglais on the coast, which was cut off from the rest of the country after the storm rendered roads impassable. The public hospital in Jérémie also reported at least 43 cholera cases earlier this week.
On Friday, high-level U.N. officials, including Ban’s special representative in Haiti, Sandra Honore, are scheduled to discuss the spike in suspected cholera cases and the development of a new plan for containing the disease’s spread in Haiti.