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VOX POP – As citizens lament slow response of Ebola Burial Teams…

Supervisor and public react to queries

OCTOBER 20, 2014 With Patrick J. Kamara and Victoria Saffa

Residents of Freetown have been complaining about the snail pace at which the Ebola burial teams convey corpses from homes for burial. Reports have it that it takes hours, even days for the Ebola Burial Teams to cart away bodies of victims, many time igniting protests from local youth who mount barricades to express their dissatisfaction with the state of affairs.

Perhaps even more serious are allegations of bribery levied against the burial teams, who some family members have alleged ask for at least Le500,000 from bereaved relatives to certify the cause of death as Ebola free. Others have complained that the corpses are buried in mass graves and without dignity.

However, the Ebola burial team supervisor has debunked these allegations and blamed the swab team and lab technicians for delays in burying Ebola corpses.

Concord Times’ Patrick J. Kamara and Victoria Saffa took to the streets of Freetown to gauge the views of the public and the Ebola burial teams as well.

Hassanatu Sillah, Grassfield, Wellington

I’ve lost my father but not to Ebola. When he died the burial team arrived four days after, and they took the sample but no result was given to us. Later when they returned the other day, they requested Le500,000 from us but we didn’t give them the money because we don’t know on which grounds they were requesting for the money.

The burial team refused giving us the body and they ended up burying my father like a pauper.

Kula Mansaray, student, MMCET

I am very disgruntled about the attitude of the Ebola burial teams. Their manner of approach and the way they handle corpses is disgusting! I mean when people die, that is the time we pay them our last respect. When my mother died few weeks ago, she was kept in the house for more than three days. She didn’t die from Ebola, but you know, we were not allowed to bury the corpse. Even though an individual may not have died from Ebola, the corpse goes through the Ebola test procedures.

So after three days, they returned with the test result which was negative. They then allowed us to bury the corpse, but the unfortunate part of it was that the body had almost decomposed, so we decided to leave it with the burial team.

Mohamed Turay, Photographer

I am praying for the Ebola virus disease to end because I’ve lost about five members of my family to the disease. Recently one of my cousins died and the test result was Ebola negative. But when we went to collect the body, the burial team requested for money and we had to give them Le200,000.

Abdulrahman Parker, Head of Kingtom Cemetery

I am the head of the grave diggers at the Kingtom cemetery. This place (pointing at the space allocated for burying Ebola victims) has been allocated for Ebola corpses. To say we do mass burial here is a blatant lie, complete lie. A very big place has been allocated for this purpose; we use one grave per person.

We are doing a very tough job. Most of our friends have avoided us because of our participation in the Ebola process. Some of us have been evicted from our places of abode; so it is more or less a sacrifice we are doing. Even my wife is not happy about my job. But we are doing this because of God and the love of our country.

We started burying Ebola corpses here on 10th August 2014. Since then we have buried about 688 corpses.

One of the challenges we are faced with is that people are using this entrance as an access road. This is very dangerous as the disease cannot travel on its own, but through people. We are calling on the government to fence this area as it poses risk of Ebola and also for our workers as many passers-by do refer to them as Ebola men.

Ibrahim Kamara, Data Collector at Kingtom cemetery

I work for the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, attached at the Kingtom cemetery as an Ebola Burial Data Collector. Some of my duties are to take the names and addresses of corpses that are brought at this cemetery.

Well, since I have been here I have never seen the burial team putting two or more corpses in a single grave. That is the perception of the public, but we are doing what we think is right before God and man.

We have now buried about 697 corpses at the Kingtom cemetery as of now.

Edison Lahai, Supervisor, Ebola Burial Team #9

I agree with you that many people are saying we do arrive late to collect corpses. But that is not our fault. Before the burial team is allowed to collect the body, the swab team is the first because they are responsible to take the specimen of the corpse to the laboratory for testing. So if there is anything about lateness, it is the swab team that should be blamed because it is only after the result from them that we come in if the result is Ebola positive.

Our mandate is to take the corpse to the cemetery for burial. So if people are grumbling that the burial teams are not proactive, it’s false.

Even at times we do invite relatives to come along and see how their relatives are buried. We handle bodies with care; we respect the traditional rites of the people, that’s why we allow them to mark the tombs of their loved ones.

If anybody is collecting money from relatives of deceased persons, then it might be the swab teams. We are calling on the general public to continue working harmoniously with the burial teams.

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