Kidnapping Versus Education in Haiti
In January of this year, five year old Olslina Jannaeus was kidnapped from the Port-au-Prince streets where she played. Her mother, a peanut vendor, wasn’t able to pay the $4,000 in ransom, and Olslina’s body was dumped a week later.
Evelyne Sincère was a 22 year old high school senior, abducted from Port-au-Prince in late 2020. Her kidnappers requested $5,500 for her return and revoked the $800 that Evelyne’s sister raised. Then, they beat and sexually assaulted Evelyne, leaving her body in a garbage dump.
Sadly, these cases aren’t rarities; kidnappings in Haiti have tripled since 2019, and the real figures are surely much higher because many abductions go unreported out of fear of retribution from the gangs of kidnappers. In 2004 Haiti went through a similar epidemic of kidnapping, so bad that the United Nations had to send in peacekeeping forces for the civil unrest. Though once those forces left two years ago, the rates resurged.
The current wave of kidnapping is a product of Haiti’s poor economy and unstable government. The government’s decades long struggle is due to several regime changes, internal conflicts, and coup d'états, which have all contributed to a history of impunity that allows the abductions to proceed while justice for the victims recedes.
Many citizens oppose the current government for being so insecure, which has caused the current president, Jovenel Moïse, to allegedly form alliances with violent criminal gangs to maintain his power and stifle dissent. Some human rights activists say that the government has provided the gangs with the money and materials to terrorize his opposers while guarding them from prosecution. The lucrativeness of kidnapping and the government's protection has caused the number of armed gangs to multiply, along with the number of missing children.
Though the kidnappings began due to economic stress, they are now causing even more damage to Haiti’s economy by diminishing interest in tourism. The areas where we work and that house our sponsored students like Saint-Marc and Montrouis are being hit hard by the absence of tourists. Saint-Marc and Montrouis are beautiful coastal cities with nice beaches and wonderful tropical weather that make them a perfect destination for local and international tourism, but the kidnapping and violence have begun to overshadow their idyll. Because of the abductions and gang presence, very few people dare to travel to enjoy the beaches which has caused the unemployment rate of tourism reliant jobs to surge. Social infrastructure is already poor and neglected in the Saint-Marc and Montrouis area, and the soaring kidnapping rates are making it worse. This area houses insufficient and low standard schools, and the countrysides around them have very few or in most cases, no school at all. The majority of the people living in these areas can’t even afford to pay for the education of their children, and less so if they’re unemployed. Not only is kidnapping taking away Haiti’s children, but it is taking away parent’s livelihood and thus, tuition and education for their kids.
The majority of the impacts Haiti is facing due to the kidnapping crisis are political and economic that can be seen through the statistics and data, but it is arguable that the invisible impacts, the psychological damages of the constant abductions, are the most detrimental. Because the bandits abduct anyone regardless of their income, sex, age, or religion, including even doctors and priests, no one is safe. A lot of students in Saint-Marc, including those that we know and who’s education we sponsor, are living in fear that they might be kidnapped too. Although the majority of kidnappings happen in Port-au-Prince, the capital, there are at least two major gangs and several smaller ones in and around Saint-Marc which commit similar atrocities like killing, armed robbery, rape, and kidnapping. These circumstances are stripping the children of their innocence because they are no longer oblivious to what is happening in their communities. It’s possible that their own siblings or friends have been the victims of the tragedies they hear about, or that they have seen the atrocities live, on social media, where the kidnappers post videos of themselves raping and torturing the victims. The children are rightfully scared, but the issue isn’t right.
Although Haiti’s current chapter is indubitably sad, it’s easy to read the victim’s stories and move on. You will only feel the smallest ache of grief compared to the heartbreak of each mother, father, husband, wife, sibling, and friend who loses a loved one. You can move on and forget their names and stories, but the issue still prevails. The rampant impunity in the country, the poor infrastructure in education, and the lack of other basic social services in Saint-Marc, and Haiti overall, have made it easier for a kid to integrate into a gang than to complete school. Nevertheless, education is one of the few alternatives that can help change the community for the better. You can act now and donate to support the education of Haiti’s children.
About the Author:
Simone Faulkner is our Blog and Partnerships Intern at Dare Humanity. Growing up in the Bay Area, with its reputation for social change, she realized that her purpose in life is to help people through service and kindness. This is what she plans to do as an intern for Dare Humanity by writing blog posts and exploring partnerships with companies. When she's not volunteering she loves to play soccer, write, bake, and explore the outdoors.