Three more young girls have been kidnapped in Haiti over the past week, the United Nations peacekeeping mission to the impoverished Caribbean country reports, amid mounting UN concern about the continuing spate of child abductions.
An eight-year-old girl was kidnapped in the capital, Port-au-Prince, last Thursday, and the following day a seven-year-old girl was abducted in the town of Arcahaie, according to the UN mission (known as MINUSTAH).
On Saturday, a three-year-old girl who had been kidnapped two days earlier was found in Arcahaie and brought to hospital after being injured with a razor blade.
The latest abductions have occurred as MINUSTAH officials warn that criminal gangs in Haiti are increasingly targeting children for kidnappings.
MINUSTAH child protection adviser Massimo Toschi told the UN News Centre last week that around half of all kidnapping victims are now under age.
The gangs have become more vicious and depraved in their attacks, with child victims often tortured, and some killed despite their family paying all or part of the demanded ransom. Girls who have been abducted are frequently raped or sexually abused.
Mr. Toschi said the gangs tend to abduct children on their way to and from school, choosing victims from both poor and affluent families with the expectation that even families with little money will be able to draw on the Haitian diaspora to help pay the ransom, which can be as much as $25,000.
Officials with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti have voiced alarm at the continuing spate of kidnappings of children in the impoverished country, days after abductors killed a boy apparently because his family could not pay the ransom.