The island nation of Haiti has a long history of economic struggle, political turmoil, and revolution. In a country ravished by corrupt leadership, lawlessness has reached extreme heights as people grow desperate for food, money, shelter and access to healthcare. America is not exempt from the country’s frustration and desperation. On October 16, 17 missionaries were abducted in Haiti by the 400 Mawozo group.
Fast facts about Haiti's current situation
The 400 Mawozo Group is responsible for kidnapping Haitian people and demanding money from their families in exchange for their release. CNN reports that a Haitian child as young as 5 was killed because her mother was not able to pay the $4,000 ransom. A Haitian professor was also killed after his family was only able to pay half of the $900,000 ransom.
Concern WorldWide Organization reports that 2019 3.7 million Haitians were starving, and by 2020 that number had surpassed 4 million and continues to climb beyond 4.4 million. Additionally, natural disasters have reduced harvest yields by 12 percent. These shortages and inflation have caused a 30 percent increase in food costs.
Haiti's economic woes extend back to when the country gained independence from France in 1804. After the revolution, Haitis was ordered to pay 150 million gold francs in reparations to France. The French later reduced the cost to 90 million gold francs, which would be $20 billion today. The debt was paid by heavy financing in the form of loans from America and Germany, leading to vicious cycles of intergenerational poverty.
More recently, the 2010 Port-au-Prince earthquake brought additional problems to the country. The quake was one of the largest recorded natural disasters, displacing 1.5 million Haitians and killing 200,000 people. United Nations only met 30 percent of the funding goal to help the country. The earthquake also led to a cholera outbreak due to the lack of access to clean water. Illness killed another 9,700, including 576 people who died from COVID-19
Here's how the current U.S. hostage situation in Haiti stands:
The hostage group includes 16 missionaries and one Canadian citizen. Of the people kidnapped there are five men, five children, and seven women according to CNN. During a visit to Titanyen, just north of Port-au-Prince, the group was kidnapped and taken in one vehicle. Reports say the kidnappers themselves made contact with the missionary organization.
The kidnapped missionaries have now been hostages for almost 20 days. 400 Mowazo is demanding $1 million each as ransom in exchange for their release. The group also made it clear that if ransom is not received, all of the hostages will be killed. Significant measures have not been taken by the United States government to facilitate the release of the missionaries.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan assured the public that President Biden is being informed daily about the situation and that “every possible option” is being considered to allow for the safe return of each hostage. Biden has not yet deployed any troops to retrieve the hostages since their exact location is unknown. But as the hostages near a month in captivity, it is clear that something will need to happen soon to allow for the missionaries' rescue.