Ebola burial team bags international award


June 10, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma 

In recognition of their efforts and role played to promote safe and dignified burial of Ebola victims in Sierra Leone, the Social Mobilization and Burial Team – through a faith-based alliance comprising World Vision, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFO) – has been presented with the 2015 Bond International Humanitarian Award “for a job well done”.

Receiving the award in England on Monday June 1 on behalf of 800 members of the burial team, Grace Kargbo, Base Manager at World Vision Sierra Leone, said it was an honour to receive the award on behalf of the team, whose services she said were remarkable during the Ebola fight.

She said Ebola burial workers risked their lives to fight the virus, and that they had conducted over 16,000 safe and dignified burials in the course of the fight.

She observed that members of the various burial teams were not recognized for their selfless and nationalistic service but instead were vilified by some members of the public. The award, she noted, will help fight the stigma they had been subjected to.

Speaking at a ceremony on Friday at the Family Kingdom, Aberdeen, National Director for World Vision, Leslie Scott, said the award recognizes the “courageous service of the Ebola burial team”.

He said the three agencies – World Vision, Catholic Relief Services, and Catholic Agency for Overseas Development – trained and equipped some 800 burial team workers in the conduct of safe and dignified burials of Ebola victims. The team, he added, was also trained to observe cultural, customs and faith-based traditions for both Christians and Muslims, while preventing contamination of family members.

“These people are heroes and they need to be celebrated,” said Mr. Scott. “Some of them were chased out of their homes by family members and landlords because they were members of the Ebola burial team. They were shunned by friends.”

He said for almost 20 years now, World Vision has been partnering with local communities, government ministries and other development organizations to improve health, education, food security and protection for children.

“When the EVD epidemic began in May, 2014, it was difficult to tackle because there was the issue of denial. But having in mind that people do listen to their religious leaders, the organization engaged  Bishops and Imams in a workshop and asked them to help in passing the massage on,” she said.