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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

US nurse and her child released by kidnappers in Haiti

Alix Dorsainvil, who was freed after her abduction. She is seen here with her husband, Sandro, who directs the aid group she worked with.

By Simon Romero and Emiliano Rodríguez Mega

Abductors have freed an American nurse working for a humanitarian organization in Haiti and her child, the aid group said earlier this week, after their kidnapping in late July drew international attention to a wave of anarchic violence gripping the capital, Port-au-Prince.

El Roi Haiti, a faith-based humanitarian organization, said in a brief statement that Alix Dorsainvil, the group’s community nurse and the wife of the group’s director, was released along with her child after they were held in Port-au-Prince.

The statement provided no further details, including when they were freed, although the nurse’s mother suggested in an interview that the release took place Tuesday night.

The woman and child had been abducted on July 31 from El Roi’s campus near the capital, and the U.S. State Department had said that U.S. officials were working with their Haitian counterparts to get them released.

“There is still much to process and to heal from in this situation,” El Roi said in its statement. “We are so thankful for everyone who joined us in prayer and supported us during this crisis.”

A State Department spokesperson confirmed the release to The New York Times but did not provide more information. “Out of respect for their privacy, we will allow individuals to speak for themselves if and when they feel ready,” the spokesperson said by email.

The kidnapping of Dorsainvil and her child had drawn scrutiny to a surge in abductions for profit as gangs have taken control over large swathes of Port-au-Prince. The U.S. Embassy in Haiti ordered the departure of nonemergency government personnel the same day that Dorsainvil and her child were abducted.

While most kidnappings involve Haitian citizens, at least 51 foreigners were abducted between January and July, according to a report by the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, known as CARDH. By comparison, an estimated 600 Haitians were kidnapped in the same period, according to Gédéon Jean, the organization’s executive director.

Women and children have become common targets, according to a report released Monday by UNICEF, the United Nations agency for children. Close to 300 such kidnappings happened during the first six months, nearly the total number documented in all of last year, according to the U.N.

Vigilante groups had recently been fighting back against the abduction gangs, unleashing a wave a gruesome executions of people believed to be gang members. But an increase in violence — including 83 kidnappings recorded in July — may signal that gangs have tightened their grip, mostly out of financial need, experts said.

“It’s normal for gangs to regain ground,” Jean said. “It’s a question of survival, as the kidnapping ‘industry’ had been considerably weakened. The gangs had no other choice.”

According to human rights groups, relatives of victims are often asked to pay up to $1 million in ransom.

In a bid to ease Haiti’s security crisis, Kenya’s government has said it was prepared to lead a multinational force, including 1,000 Kenyan police officers, to the Caribbean island nation. The Bahamas has also agreed to support the force by supplying 150 personnel.

The Biden administration has expressed support for the Kenyan plan, and is seeking the approval of the U.N. Security Council for the deployment of such a contingent.

It was unclear how Dorsainvil and her child were faring following their release.

“I haven’t had the chance to speak with her myself,’’ Lynn Favreau, Dorsainvil’s mother, said in a telephone interview from New Hampshire. “This just happened last night. I’m waiting anxiously to be able to speak to her.”

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