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Nearly three weeks after being abducted from a road outside Port-au-Prince, several Catholic clergy members have been released. Their kidnapping sparked nationwide outrage and anger over a wave of recent abductions.
People pray against an epidemic of kidnappings sweeping Haiti during a Mass in Port-au-Prince
Several Catholic nuns and priests abducted earlier this month in Haiti have now been released, a missionary group said on Friday.
They were the last members of a group of Catholic clergy to be freed, coming after widespread public outcry over their abduction.
The Society of Priests of Saint Jacques announced their release in a statement, saying the hostages were unharmed.
The statement did not provide information on whether a ransom was paid to the kidnappers.
“Our hearts are filled with joy because we have found our colleagues, the sisters and the family members of Father Jean Anel Joseph in good health,” the society said in a statement.
On April 11, the group of 10 people was abducted while traveling on a road between the capital Port-au-Prince and the town of Ganthier. The kidnappers are suspected members of the 400 Mawozo group.
On January 12, 2010, shortly before 5 p.m., a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Caribbean island nation of Haiti. The destruction was catastrophic. In some areas, 90% of buildings collapsed. At least 200,000 people were killed and more than a million were made homeless. It caused $6.6 billion (€5.9 billion) worth of damage – more than the country’s entire gross domestic product.
January 2011. Crosses on a mass grave near the capital, Port-au-Prince. The earthquake hit a country already plagued with crises. In 2010, Haiti was the poorest nation in the western hemisphere — and it still is. It suffers from overpopulation and corruption. Natural disasters are not uncommon. After the earthquake, thousands more died in a cholera epidemic.
A carefree moment in a camp for earthquake victims in March 2010. Help came from the UN, NGOs, and private individuals. Money for reconstruction flowed in from around the world. Bert Hoffmann, a political scientist at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies, told DW that many aid organizations were very effective at a local level, for example in building houses, supporting people in need.
US food aid donations provided short-term help to those affected during the emergency and immediate aftermath of the earthquake, Hoffmann said. “However, in the long term, free rice from the USA massively bankrupted the Haitian rice farmers,” he added. “This kind of aid did not create sustainable structures for the country; it increased its dependence.”
Waiting for work: Ten years after the earthquake, quality of life for the majority of Haitians has not improved. More than half the population lives below the poverty line of $2 per day. According to the German aid organization Welthungerhilfe, 35% of Haitians rely on food aid. The aid organization Doctors Without Borders said basic health care is inadequate.
For the past year and a half, mass unemployment, inflation, criminality and cronyism have driven Haitians onto the streets — as seen here in November. Many people have been killed in clashes between police and protesters. Pirmin Spiegel, director-general of the German Catholic development agency MISEREOR, recently warned that there was an increasing danger that civil war would break out in Haiti.
The anger on the streets is directed at President Jovenel Moise (center), in office since February 2017. The opposition accuses him of embezzling money from a solidarity fund. Moise rejects the allegations and refuses to resign. When the Haitian parliament reconvenes on January 13, most of its representatives will have come to the end of their mandate. Moise could, in theory, rule by decree.
The opposition is divided, but activists want to keep fighting for change. “We need a government that responds to our needs,” said 31-year-old Rese Domini (photo) from the organization MONEGAF. In December, Velina Charlier, a 39-year-old activist, told DW that she was demanding, “Moise’s resignation, an anti-corruption trial and a radical change in the system.”
Aid organizations are calling on the international community to take action. Local products should be prioritized for food aid “to stimulate the domestic economy,” Welthungerhilfe explained in November. MISEREOR’s director-general called on Germany and the European Union to push for political change in Haiti.
December 2019, Port-au-Prince: Two friends on the beach. Political scientist Bert Hoffmann said the ongoing crisis should not obscure the existence of “many family and local structures that are functioning” in Haiti. The Caribbean state is “not hell on earth,” he said. “It’s a very poor but generally peaceful country that has a great culture.”
Author: Helena Kaschel
The group included four Haitian priests and a nun, as well as a priest and a nun from France, AFP news agency reported. The others who were abducted were relatives of a clergy member.
The kidnapping of the clergy members sparked anger among many Haitians, and was seen as the last straw for many after a spate of kidnappings for ransom.
The abductions also prompted the Catholic Church to openly criticize the Haitian government for its “inaction.”
The outrage also prompted the island nation’s President Jovenel Moise to reshuffle his Cabinet.
Protests have also erupted against Moise, who has been accused of having ties to violent gangs as well as being involved in extensive corruption.
rs/sms (AFP, dpa)
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Crises and disasters threatened more than 132 million people in 2018, and many of them hardly made the headlines. The Care aid organization looks at humanitarian issues that were underreported last year.
More than 300,000 people were killed when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck near the capital, Port-au-Prince. Survivors received little of the more than $10 billion in aid that Haiti supposedly received in the aftermath.