Liberia’s government announced Tuesday that it will allow families to bury Ebola victims in a special plot of land instead of requiring that the bodies be cremated to prevent the spread of the virus that has killed nearly 8,000 people across West Africa this year.
Ciatta Bishop, head of the national Ebola burial team, said the government has secured a 25-acre parcel of land where Ebola victims can now be laid to rest. More than 2,000 corpses of suspected Ebola victims had been cremated after the decree was ordered at the height of the crisis in Liberia several months ago.
The corpses of Ebola victims are highly contagious, and many of those who washed or touched bodies before their burials contracted the disease.
Bishop warned the public that in returning to normal burials “we have to be careful now” so that the process does not lead to a flare-up in Ebola cases.
“They just must not touch bodies otherwise than that we will have problems again and the number (of Ebola cases) will rise,” Bishop said.
The cremation decree is highly unpopular in Liberia, where funeral traditions are carefully followed and are considered a sacred obligation to the deceased. Many families have tried to secretly bury their relatives’ bodies to avoid them being taken away by burial teams to face cremation.
Liberia has recorded the highest number of deaths — more than 3,400 — though the number of cases is now highest in neighboring Sierra Leone. More than 9,400 people have become sick there, about 2,700 of whom have died.
Story compiled from CCTV America and AP reports.
Ebola orphans often overlooked
In the race to contain the Ebola virus, the children of Ebola victims are often overlooked. Many children are abandoned, stigmatized, and suffering the pain of incredible loss. CCTV America’s Stephanie Freid reported this story from Conakry, Guinea.
In one example, 16 children, orphaned by parents who died of Ebola, live together in a one-room shanty.
They have no one to take care of them, because their relatives and community members fearful of infection rejected them, even though they are all Ebola-free. As a way of psychologically coping, they reenacted “death by Ebola scenes” they lived through at home.
The woman, who took it upon herself to turn her former fax and photocopy business into a dwelling, said she couldn’t ignore Guinea’s orphans.
“I am a mother, and I have children. I could not stand by and watch these children be stigmatized. I had to take action.” Agnes Mimi Loua, the founder of Felfedef Children’s Home, said.
Money for their care came from private sector donations. There’s enough to last through 2015, and hopefully by then they would return to their families and communities.
“It is very different here than before, when I lived at home with my parents. I used to play differently at home. I don’t get enough to eat like at my parents, and we’re here cramped together in a very small space,” 12-year-old orphan Kadia Tucamara said.
As the Ebola epidemic continues assailing West Africa, newfound social programs are addressing some of these children’s needs, but for thousands of Ebola orphans, the existing damage can never be undone.