Haitians have blamed cholera on UN peacekeepers from Nepal as well as voodoo practitioners [Al Jazeera]

At least 45 people have been killed across Haiti due to accusations that they are using "black magic" to spread cholera, the director of a Voodoo association says.

Max Beauvoir, a voodoo priest, said on Friday most of the killings happened in the southern coastal town of Jeremie, where people were being lynched, set on fire and attacked with machetes.

The priest also reported killings in Cap Haitien and the Central Plateau.

"They [victims] are being blamed for using voodoo to contaminate people with cholera," Beauvoir said. "My call is to the authorities so they can assume their responsibilities."

More than half of Haiti's nearly 10 million people are believed to practice voodoo.

The religion was brought from West Africa several centuries ago by slaves forced to work on the plantations of white masters in what was then the rich French Caribbean colony of Saint Domingue. 

Beauvoir said he had discussed the anti-voodoo attacks with Haiti's communications and culture ministry, which confirmed the killings this week. Marie-Laurence Lassegue, the culture minister, made a public appeal for the lynchings to end.

Local police would not comment on Beauvior's numbers, but the Associated Press news agency reported earlier this month that the national police spokesman, Frantz Lerebours, said machete-wielding mobs had killed a dozen people accused of practising witchcraft to spread cholera.

Andre Leclerc, a UN police spokesman, said on Friday he had received reports of only a couple of killings recently, but said that Beauvoir would have more exact figures.

Panic over epidemic

Fear and confusion have surrounded the cholera epidemic, which has killed more than 2,400 people and could affect another 600,000 or more, experts say.

The lynchings follow allegations by Haitians that UN peacekeepers were responsible for the cholera, a disease mainly spread by contaminated water and food.

The United Nations, which  maintains there is no conclusive evidence to back the allegations, recently set up an international scientific panel to investigate the source of the deadly epidemic.

However, a report by an expert contracted by the French government linked the infection to latrines at the Nepalese camp located beside a river.

In November, there were anti-UN riots over the cholera, which continued to claim victims as the Western Hemisphere's poorest state held elections marred by confusion and fraud charges. Final vote results have still not been announced.

Source: Agencies