July 27, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai
The Ebola cemetery in Bolima community at Waterloo, in the Western Area Rural District, has now been transformed into a money-making place by some unscrupulous youth who are demanding the sum of Le100,000 before residents of Kissy Town community could bury their dead.
The cemetery was used by the government and Concern Worldwide during the Ebola outbreak for burial of persons that died of Ebola in the Western Area, after the one at Kingtom in Freetown was declared full.
At the height of the outbreak, Concern Worldwide paid youth that were employed to bury victims of the epidemic.
According to report, Concern Worldwide handed over the cemetery to the Western Area Rural District Council in Waterloo after the outbreak was declared over in 2015.
But headman of Kissy Town, Davies Kamara, said youth who used to be employed by Concern Worldwide are still stationed at the cemetery site, demanding the sum of Le100,000 from families who go to bury their dead.
“Most of the people here are poor and they cannot afford to pay such money. Besides, when someone is bereaved that person should not be asked to pay for burying his/her dead one,” said Kamara, who noted that the issue was a very serious concern that needs to be urgently addressed.
Marie Sesay, a resident of Kissy Town, said the burial fee is exorbitant, adding that the illegal monies youth have been collecting are not paid to the rural district council.
She said the Ebola cemetery should have been preserved as a memorial site for thousands of victims who lost their lives to the deadly disease. “What I was thinking about the Ebola cemetery is that it should have been preserved for historical or monument purpose. The future generation will have to be told where Ebola victims were buried. This is a sacred place, so it is important in our country’s history and thus it should be protected,” he said.
In response to this, Chief Administrator of the Western Area Rural District Council, Ahmed Shekuba Koroma, said complaints from residents about the cemetery were a serious concern to the council.
“I’m telling you in no uncertain terms that this is the very first time that this district has owned a cemetery. This is a facility that we hold at a very high esteem because it is very monumental. If people want to make reference to where the Ebola victims were buried in the future, they will make reference to the Western Area RuralDistrict,” he said.
Koroma said council was planning to set-up a committee that would be managing the cemetery, noting that residents would still have to pay to bury the dead at the cemetery, though for a minimal fee that will be used to pay labourers who dig graves and clean the cemetery, among other chores.
He said council would also construct a perimeter fence round the cemetery and preserve areas that were used to bury Ebola victims, while another area would be demarcated for the burial of corpses.
Asked if council was aware of monies collected by youth at the cemetery and whether it receives a share, the WARDC Chief Administrator said he could not confirm as it was just an allegation that is subject to investigation.
But he warned that: “Whosoever is collecting money from people illegally will be arrested and brought to book.The cemetery is over ten acres and we will allow others to bury there. It is a community property under the supervision of the council and we will protect it at all cost.”
Here lies the remains of hundreds of Ebola victims