Angry Haitian mobs have lynched at least 45 people in recent weeks, accusing them of spreading a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 2,500 people across the country, officials said.
The number included at least 14 suspected sorcerers previously known to have been lynched in the far south-western region of Grand’Anse as local people feared they were spreading cholera with a magical substance.
The area has been largely spared by the outbreak.
“We have counted 40 people dead in Grand’Anse department alone, where people are attacking natural healers they accuse of cholera-linked witchcraft,” said communications ministry official Moise Fritz Evens.
Five other people were killed in similar circumstances elsewhere in the country.
“The victims – most of them voodoo priests – were stoned or hacked with machetes before being burned in the street,” added the official, who was presenting the results of an investigation conducted in Grand’Anse earlier this month.
Official figures earlier showed the water-borne bacterial infection has claimed 2,591 lives so far in the nation’s first cholera outbreak in more than a century.
The disease first appeared in mid-October in the north.
Health ministry figures as of December 17 showed 121,518 people had been treated for cholera, including 63,711 who received hospital treatment.
And in a sign there is no end in sight for the disease that has become a thorn in the side of the already deeply troubled nation, about 50 people died on each of the last five days recorded.
The outbreak led to deadly anti-UN riots last month as a desperate populace turned its anger on peacekeepers from Nepal accused of bringing the disease into the country.
The first lynching cases date back to late last month.
About half of Haiti’s population is believed to practice the voodoo religion in some form, though many are thought to also follow other religious beliefs as well.
A catastrophic earthquake in January killed 250,000 people and left more than one million homeless.