SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A U.S. nurse and her young daughter who were kidnapped in Haiti in late July and released this week were not harmed and are healthy, an aid organization said Thursday.
The announcement allayed concerns about the state of Alix Dorsainvil and her daughter. Violent gangs in Haiti are known for mistreating and sometimes raping those they abduct, often holding victims for months and demanding multiple ransoms.
“Alix is a remarkably resilient woman whose walk with God guides her deep love for her family and her passionate commitment to the Haitian people,” said El Roi Haiti, the Christian group founded by Dorsainvil’s husband.
It also thanked U.S. authorities for working “tirelessly behind the scenes” and credited a faith-based global security ministry with providing consultants that helped lead to the Aug. 8 release of Dorsainvil and her daughter.
“God demonstrated His loving kindness through both private and public sector partners and resources who helped us navigate this crisis,” the group said.
It’s not clear whether a ransom was paid. The group and U.S. officials have not provided further details, and Haiti’s National Police did not respond to requests for comment.
Pierre Esperance, executive director of the National Human Rights Defense Network in Haiti, said in a phone interview that ransoms vary wildly, with some gangs seeking up to $1 million and others asking $100,000 but accepting $10,000.
He also noted that gangs will sometimes demand a second or third ransom before releasing someone.
“The gangs are terrorists,” he said, echoing the sentiment of many in the country of more than 11 million people, where more than 530 people have been kidnapped since January, according to one local nonprofit.
From May to mid-July alone, at least 40 people were kidnapped, according to Esperance’s group. These include a well-known journalist, six security guards, a police officer and the former president of Haiti’s provisional electoral council, who was abducted June 20 and has not been released.
Dorsainvil and her daughter were kidnapped on July 27, the same day that Dr. Samson Marseille, the director of Haiti’s epidemiological department, was abducted. He has yet to be released.
Also that day, the U.S. State Department warned U.S. citizens to leave Haiti “as soon as possible” and ordered the departure of nonemergency U.S. government personnel because of security concerns. The country remains under a U.S. “do not travel” advisory.
Christian Jean, a farmer who has lived for more than 40 years in the community where Dorsainvil was abducted, said he and other neighbors have vowed to arm themselves with machetes, sticks and bottles to prevent another kidnapping.
“What happened hurt a lot. I could not sleep well,” he said.
He said the community used to be a safe place where children played until late into the night, but that nowadays everyone is indoors by 6 or 7 p.m.
“I am hoping the nurse will come back to the community and continue the work she was doing,” he said. “She is a mother to the people here.”
From January to March, more than 1,600 people were reported killed, injured or kidnapped in Haiti, a nearly 30% increase compared with the last three months of 2022, according to the newest U.N. report.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has reiterated his request that he first made in October for the deployment of an international armed force to fight gangs estimated to control up to 80% of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
Kenya has offered to lead a multinational police force, and the U.S. said last week that it will put forward a U.N. Security Council resolution to authorize such action.
Associated Press photographer Odelyn Joseph and reporter Evens Sanon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti contributed.