Haitian Gangs Kidnap Doctor, Surgeon as Country Grapples With Mass of Earthquake Injuries

Gangs in Haiti have reportedly kidnapped a doctor and a surgeon in separate incidents as the country is still dealing with the aftermath of a devastating earthquake from last weekend that killed over 2,000 and left more than 12,000 with injuries.

The surgeon, an obstetrician, was kidnapped Tuesday on his way to perform a cesarean delivery. It happened in Petionville, which is considered one of the safer and wealthier areas of Port-au-Prince. A woman and her child died as a result of the delayed treatment.

"We are furious at these people," Dr. Ronald La Roche, the founder of the DASH network of affordable hospitals, said of the surgeon's abductors. "They are responsible for the death of this woman and her child."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Haitian Gangs Kidnap Doctor, Surgeon
Haitian gangs have kidnapped a doctor and a surgeon in the aftermath of the Earthquake that left over 2,000 dead. In this photo, Haitians recover items after the earthquake struck on August 18, 2021 in Les Cayes, Haiti. Richard Pierrin/Getty Images

Dr. Workens Alexandre, who was also seized, was among the country's few orthopedic surgeons, desperately needed for quake victims with broken limbs.

An official at the Bernard Mevs Hospital said 45 of the 48 quake victims being treated at the facility needed orthopedic surgery.

Gangs in the rough Martissant neighborhood on the capital's outskirts had announced a truce earlier in the week to allow aid efforts to through to the southwestern part of Haiti, which has hit hardest by Saturday's earthquake.

It was unclear if those gangs were involved in the latest abductions, but Roche said criminals have engaged in kidnappings far beyond Martissant.

Of the supposed truce with gangs in Martisan, he said "we cannot depend on that."

"We feel that the gangsters are getting more daring. They are working now in Petionville, the center of the city," said La Roche, whose network of eight hospitals and clinics will close to nonemergency cases to protest the kidnapping.

The DASH hospitals are treating 27 earthquake victims, and they — and any emergency cases — will continue to receive care.

Kidnappers have contacted the families of both doctors, but there is no information on ransom demands.

The official at the Bernard Mevs Hospital, who asked not to be identified because of safety concerns, said the problem has gotten so bad that a program has been set up so that doctors can stay in hospital rooms for two or three days to avoid the risk of travel.

The quake killed nearly 2,200 people and injured over 12,000. The abductions in Port-au- Prince directly affect the transfer of patients from the overwhelmed hospitals in the south to the capital, the last hope for the most severely injured.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry, himself the former head of neurosurgery at Bernard Mevs Hospital, had already recognized that the government cannot depend on the gang truce.

"I have already given orders that for traveling from Port-au-Prince to the south, security be provided on the route from Martisan to the worst hit areas," he said Wednesday.

Meanwhile a group of 18 Colombian volunteer search-and-rescue workers had to be escorted out of the quake-hit city of Jeremie under police protection after a rumor circulated that they had been involved in the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

That killing, which is still unsolved, is suspected of being carried out by a group of Colombian mercenaries.

The Colombians rescuers had arrived only a day before. Local media reported that a Jeremie city council member went on a radio station and incited people to go after the Colombian team, who had patches on their uniforms with the colors of the country's flag. They took refuge at a civil defense office.

The head of the Jeremie civil protection office, Wadson Montisino Cledanon, confirmed that the search team had been taken to the local airport with police protection.

Haitian Gangs Kidnap Doctor, Surgeon
People injured in a car accident, sitting right, wait with others injured during the earthquake for x-rays at the General Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Fernando Llano/Associated Press