As the first anniversary of the quake that almost completely destroyed Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince, killing over 200,000 people, passed us by this week many mainstream news outlets did retrospectives of coverage and check-ins on the country’s progress. The Guardian spoke with local Vodouisants on the anniversary about their belief that the souls of those killed will soon be returning. Right across the street from the palace, by her tent, Ronite Sant-Louis, a devoted voodooist says her faith has been put to the test since last 12 January when she lost a six-year-old son under the rubble of her now vanished home. “Several times this year I felt like God has abandoned us, I even tried to cancel him from my life in January. But now I want to keep believing my son will be back soon.” For the voodoo, souls of the dead reincarnate in a new body, getting a new life without recollection of the past after it has been washed and scrubbed at sea by angels for 365 days.
Since I first reported on Vodou practitioners being killed and persecuted in Haiti over frustration and fears concerning the ongoing cholera outbreak the situation seems to have only gotten worse. At the beginning of December around 12 Vodouisants had been killed by angry mobs, now that number has ballooned to over 40. Officials counted 40 people killed – mostly voodoo priests – killed in one region of Haiti, the AFP news agency reported, with five others killed elsewhere. “The victims… were stoned or hacked with machetes before being burned in the streets,” communications ministry official Moise Fritz Evens said. Haiti’s communications minister said she abhorred the killings and insisted that the answer was to improve general education about how cholera is transmitted. “Voodoo practitioners have nothing to do with the cholera epidemic. We must press for an awareness campaign about the disease in the communities.”
As the cholera epidemic in Haiti continues to sicken tens of thousands, killing nearly 2000 people so far, the angry and scared populace is starting to lash out at Vodou practitioners. “Terror over a fast-spreading cholera epidemic has triggered a violent witch hunt in rural Haiti in which locals have murdered at least 12 neighbors on accusations they used “black magic” to infect people, police said Thursday […] Rumors began to spread last week in the remote southwestern Grand Anse region, where the first cases of cholera are only now being seen, that Vodou practitioners had fashioned a magic powder to spread the infection. Machete-wielding mobs have since lynched and killed a dozen people accused of practicing such witchcraft, burning the bodies of their victims, national police spokesman Frantz Lerebours said.” The Haitian government in Port-au-Prince issued a statement saying that “there is no cholera powder, nor cholera zombie, nor cholera spirit”, trying to quell the violence and rumor-mongering. Relief organizations are also trying to spread awareness, but Hurricane Thomas has worsened the situation, washing polluted matter into the water supply, causing the disease to spread.