Around the world, sufferers of coronavirus and health professionals have faced stigma due to fear and ignorance. Medical workers in the Philippines have had bleach thrown at them. Doctors in India have been forcefully evicted by their landlords over infection fears.
In Haiti though, the poorest country in the Americas, that stigma has become a major concern among health authorities trying to contain the outbreak. Haitians have long been distrustful of their institutions, wariness that a corruption-fuelled political crisis, food insecurity and a surge in gang crime have only exacerbated. Now fear of contracting coronavirus has some taking matters into their own hands.
Violence erupted during the last major epidemic, a nearly decade-long cholera outbreak that began in 2010; more than 800,000 people were sickened and around 10,000 died. At least 45 priests of Haiti’s voodoo religion were killed, some hacked to death, by mobs who blamed them for causing it with their spells, the government said at the time.
Coronavirus so far has proven far less lethal that cholera. Haiti has registered just 182 cases to date and 15 deaths. But harassment of patients such as Fontilus poses a major challenge to authorities trying to get those who contract Covid-19 to come forward for treatment.