PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haitian pastor Burel Fontilus feared for his life in late March when he contracted the new coronavirus.
It wasn’t the COVID-19 respiratory disease that frightened him, he said, rather gun-toting vigilantes in his neighborhood near Port-au-Prince who were threatening to lynch him.
Word that Fontilus, 42, had fallen ill while traveling quickly morphed into accusations on social media that he was carelessly spreading it.
“They were gathering to kill me,” Fontilus told Reuters. “Neighbors said they had seen groups preparing.”
Reuters was unable to verify independently Fontilus’ claims that an armed mob in his suburb of Carrefour was organizing to harm him.
Carrefour Police Commissioner Charles Maunaude said authorities took the alleged threats against Fontilus seriously. Police were dispatched near his home to pre-empt any potential aggression, Maunaude said, while a squad car escorted the ambulance that took Fontilus to the local hospital.
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-fueled 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. Continue reading…