State Department: Over 1,000 Americans in Haiti Seek Assistance from US Government – CNN Reports

State Department: Over 1,000 Americans in Haiti Seek Assistance from US Government – CNN Reports



CNN
 — 

The growing list of Americans in Haiti who have reached out to the US government was nearing 1,000 names on Tuesday, the State Department said, as the Caribbean nation struggles with rampant gang violence, political instability and an escalating humanitarian crisis.

More than 30 US citizens were on a flight that left Cap-Haitien, a city on Haiti’s north coast, before landing Sunday at Miami International Airport, the State Department said. The department had urged Americans to consider the flight only if they could reach Cap-Haitien safely. Travel to the city is dangerous, officials warned.

The crisis in Haiti intensified earlier this month as criminal gangs and militias began wreaking coordinated havoc, security sources said, emptying once-bustling streets and leaving necessities including food, medicine and gas in short supply.

The culmination of years of growing gang control and popular unrest, the joint assault forced Prime Minister Ariel Henry to announce his resignation last week, a stunning capitulation that has so far proven futile in restoring calm.

In Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince – more than 100 miles from Cap-Haitien – the airport is shuttered and under siege by gangs who are fighting with police in the area. The gangs have taken control 80% of Port-au-Prince, according to UN estimates.

As the crisis continues, nearly 1,000 Americans have filled out a “crisis intake form,” which helps the State Department track Americans and to ensure information on evacuations and consular services gets to them, department spokesperson Vedant Patel told CNN on Tuesday.

That number includes people who want to leave Haiti but also others who “might be interested in staying in touch with the embassy” and want to receive more information, including departure opportunities, Patel said.

Meanwhile, a Florida-based nonprofit working to rescue Americans says more than 100 people have asked for help getting out of the country.

Among those still trapped is missionary Jill Dolan and her family, who are stuck in Port-au-Prince. They are hiding in a guest house near the closed airport, CNN affiliate WPTV reported.

The family continues to provide updates online through its nonprofit, Love A Neighbor, which oversees an orphanage and a family preservation project in rural Haiti.

“Feels like we are sinking in quick sand,” Dolan’s organization wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday. “However, we are grateful to be alive.”

Boyce Young, a 75-year-old former Marine from Georgia who arrived in Haiti in mid-February to do aid work, was trapped with another American until Monday afternoon when they managed to escape, his daughter Kim Patterson told CNN.

The pair found a boat that took them up the coast to the border with the Dominican Republic. They got off on the Haitian side, had their passports stamped, crossed the border and drove six hours to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, where they remained Tuesday morning, Patterson detailed.

Courtesy Kim Patterson

Boyce Young, seen here in an undated picture, was doing aid work in Haiti.

The situation in Haiti is now “one of the most dire humanitarian situations in the world,” Patel, with the US State Department, said Monday.

And the dangerous conditions throughout the country have not only complicated evacuation efforts for Americans wanting to get out – they have also left one local aid organization without the healthcare essentials it needs for its day-to-day operations.

André Boyer starts and ends his day at the clinic of Friends of The Children of Haiti in Jacmel, about four hours outside of Port-au-Prince, where he has been sleeping at night and working during the day to better serve patients in dire need of medical assistance. Remaining at the clinic also saves himself the task of finding overpriced fuel to travel to and from his home, he told CNN on Tuesday.

Friends of The Children of Haiti was founded by an American couple in 1992 and has often had to operate under challenging conditions. But in the past few months, the situation has severely worsened and the organization has completely run out of at least one critical medication, the group said.

Boyer oversees the organization’s Vital Health Clinics and Weekly Urgent Care, which provide free medicine to the people of Haiti from infants to the elderly.

That mission has become a balancing act as supplies have dwindled dramatically, leaving Haiti’s most vulnerable without the lifesaving medicines they desperately need.

One medicine in particular, Medika Mamba, known as “peanut butter medicine,” has been used to treat malnutrition in children from infancy to 3 years – but the organization is completely out of it with no access to any more, Nathan Ruby, its executive director, told CNN.

“It is the closest thing to a miracle I’ve ever seen in person,” Ruby said. “This will take a 2-year-old child who is going towards starvation and literally grab these kids and pull them right back into a healthy physical body.”

“We’re out and we can’t get any more,” he said, adding for the children who were on it, “it becomes a life-and-death situation because these kids are so severely malnourished.”

A rescue with ‘a plane, a boat and a bus’

Project DYNAMO, a nonprofit search, rescue and aid group run by veterans and based in Tampa, Florida, has been conducting evacuations of Americans from Haiti. It says it has received more than 100 rescue requests.

“It is very hard,” cofounder and CEO Bryan Stern told CNN in a video interview Monday. The group has been focused on Americans stranded in remote areas where no other rescue resources exist. That has often meant several modes of transportation are required to complete an evacuation. “We’ve been working day and night,” Stern said.

Stern was in the neighboring Dominican Republic during the interview, alongside Florida residents Miriam Cinotti and Linotte Joseph, who were in Haiti for missionary work and were evacuated by the nonprofit on Sunday.

“We took a plane, a boat and a bus,” Stern said, describing that rescue operation. “And we had to walk on the beach for a little bit.”

“It is hard, it is complicated, and it’s even more complicated without any assistance,” he said, adding the group relies on nothing but donations to fund their missions.

Joseph is a founder of Mission of Grace, an organization that has worked with missionary teams to help Haitians for more than a decade and includes an orphanage, clinic, soup kitchen and a home for older adults. Cinotti has been working with the organization since 2010, and travels to Haiti multiple times a year.

Both women said they were relieved to be evacuated, but they worry about others, including Dolan, who are trapped amid the violence.

“We’re here, and we’re safe,” Cinotti said. “But on this end, it’s like, you know, it should have been them that came first. Those (are) things that go through your head.”

With Project DYNAMO’S growing rescue wait list, the organization needs more money for additional resources, Stern said, adding without funds, his hands are tied.

“We need people’s help, and we need it bad,” he said. “Some of these people are in extremely dire circumstances, and we can do it. I just need help with resources.”

CNN’s Kylie Atwood, Colin McCollough, Christina Maxouris, Michael Conte and David Williams contributed to this report.

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