Reactions to the recently released news of Akavi’s life-threatening situation have been strong and followed by an outpouring of emotions on social media.
Some people have vented their anger at the long time delay in informing the public of the 62-year-old nurse’s plight.
Akavi has been held by the terrorist organisation since 2013, but it was only in the past few days that her situation has been made public – and against the wishes of the New Zealand government.
Contacted by email, Cook Islands Red Cross Society secretary general Fine Arnold said: “Due to the sensitivity of the issue and out of respect for Akavi’s family, the effort has been left to the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), New Zealand Red Cross (NZRC) and the NZ Government.
“The Cook Islands Red Cross was not directly involved as Louisa is working under the New Zealand Red Cross.
“However, Louisa is a valued member of the Red Cross family and this is a difficult and deeply concerning situation for everyone involved.
“Red Cross’ priority continues to be the safety and privacy of Louisa and her family and at this time we ask for everyone’s prayers and understanding.”
Akavi is the only known Red Cross worker from the Cook Islands working in a war zone.
In the Radio New Zealand report yesterday, Foreign Affairs minister Winston Peters has accused the International Red Cross of putting the life of New Zealand nurse at increased risk by going public with her kidnapping.
Peters claims the release of Akavi's story puts her at more risk.
ICRC publicly confirmed yesterday Akavi was kidnapped by Islamic State in Syria in 2013; since, RNZ and other news media have agreed to keep her capture secret but the ICRC agency has now decided to appeal for information.
Peters says the release of the story puts her in more danger.
NZ prime minister Jacinda Ardern refused to directly criticise the ICRC - but repeatedly stated that the government opposed its decision and made that clear to the agency.
“It absolutely remains the government’s view that it would be preferable if this case were not in the public domain. For that reason, I won’t be commenting further on it.’’
When the Red Cross expressed surprise that Ardern didn’t want Louisa Akavi’s story to be told, Peters came out swinging.
In a statement from his office he said the government was aware the ICRC was talking with the New York Times and advised at the “highest level of New Zealand’s preference not to publish”.
He said the government’s view continues to be that the release of her story now “increases the risks to her life”.
The foreign minister insisted if there was any acknowledgement of Red Cross’ media plan “it was not an endorsement”.
In stark contrast just an hour earlier the agency’s director of Operations Dominik Stillhart told media it would not have gone public without the government’s support.
In a livestream from Geneva, Stillhart went on to say he’s surprised by what he’s hearing now.
“When I woke up this morning and I saw that was the information that came out of New Zealand, I was slightly surprised. We had numerous discussions, we knew what we were doing, the decision was taken in full cooperation with the government,’’ he said.
However, Ardern told Morning Report the government has never changed its position on whether to go public with the case.
“We’ve been utterly clear, all the way through, that it was our preference that this would not be in the public domain.
“We’ve simply relied on advice around the reasons we’ve taken all the way through and that the New Zealand media have taken all the way through on not having this case in the public domain, and from our perspective that advice has not changed, that rationale has not changed.”