On an island – the poorest in the Americas – where the health system is very fragile and too expensive for the majority of the population, the inhabitants rely on the traditional remedies and ritual practices of the voodoo priests. This syncretistic cult of African origin is widespread in Haiti, especially among the black population. It is believed that it is practiced by about half of the eleven million inhabitants of the country. It took hold in the mid-sixteenth century among slaves deported from Africa and continued to practice clandestinely during French colonial rule. It was recognized as an official religion only in 2003, during the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
At first, the virus spread slowly to Haiti, but in the past few weeks, the number of confirmed cases has grown dramatically and has exceeded a thousand people. And rumors about “a mysterious fever” began to circulate among the inhabitants.
In harmony with the world
“Priests and priests – houngan and mambo – are responsible for the well-being of the population,” says Carl-Henry Desmornes, a 60-year-old religious leader. Many priests say they can count on curative treatment, not verified by any scientist or international body. According to the priest Euvoni Georges Auguste, for example, the religious community – led by the Loas (spirits) – would have developed a specific preparation to treat the symptoms of covid-19.
She herself took charge of teaching other priests how to administer it. It is shameful, he adds, that President Jovenel Moïse has expressed favorable opinions towards an alleged natural cure widespread in Madagascar and not towards voodoo remedies, which are still viewed with prejudice by a part of the population. “If there is an important difference between voodoo and western medicine,” concludes Desmornes, “it is that the former seeks meaning in disease. We hope that when the emergency is over we will learn to live in harmony with the world around us instead of transforming everything we touch. ”