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With A Surge In Gang Violence, Americans In Haiti Are Struggling To Find Ways To Escape

U.S. Citizens in Haiti weigh their options in efforts to escape gang violence.

Amid ongoing politically motivated violence and civil unrest in Haiti, rescue efforts are underway to help Americans escape from the small Caribbean nation, according to NBC News. At least 450 United States nationals have been evacuated from Port Au Prince since March. 

While some evacuations have been successful, there are some Americans who are left to make a difficult choice. Erika Charles, an American citizen living in Haiti, said that she is unwilling to leave her Haitian husband and three children behind. 

“I’ve spent weeks trying to find ways that we could evacuate our whole family,” she said. “The problem I’m running into is I am the only American citizen in my family, and so the U.S. embassy has had occasional helicopters to evacuate U.S. citizens, but I would have to go and leave my family behind. And that’s something I can’t do,” she told NBC News

As of the end of March, at least 1,600 Americans petitioned the State Department for help in fleeing the country. The State Department has chartered private helicopters to help get Americans from Haiti to the Dominican Republic. Citizens are then responsible for their transportation from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. They are also required to reimburse the U.S. government for the helicopter flights out of Haiti. Private organizations are stepping in to help rescue Americans. Project Dynamo, an international search-and-rescue non-profit group, has rescued 51 people so far.

In February, violence erupted in Haiti when a coalition of armed groups launched an attack against Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s government. The group, which consists of former members of the military and police force, raided prisons, hospitals, banks, and other government buildings. Although Henry agreed to resign on March 12, the violence has continued. 

The. U.N. reported that  1,500 people have been killed in gang violence in Haiti this year.