Death Calls


Ebola survivor Maseray carries a baby's body from a home in Bendu, Sierra Leone.

Maseray is the second woman to join World Vision's safe and dignified burial team. Rather than lay the body down during the prayer and ceremony, she held the lifeless child close to her chest—providing a final moment of dignity before reaching the grave site.

Maseray knows Ebola's toll firsthand. The virus took her husband, sister, and another close relative. Ebola struck her as well, but she survived. The 45-year-old mother is unbowed and looking to protect her community. 

World Vision leads the national effort to train, equip, and coordinate burial teams for Ebola victims in Sierra Leon that preserve long-held traditions, yet prevent Ebola contamination.

When a death call comes into one of the organization’s call centers, an eight-person team responds.

Maseray spent a week training and preparing emotionally for her first call to provide a safe and dignified burial.

“I am ready for this day," she says. “I will execute all that I have been taught in the training.”

When the call comes, Maseray dons multiple layers of protective equipment and helps clean the SUV that will be used to carry the body to the burial site. As an Ebola survivor, Maseray is immune to the disease.

It's a 20-minute drive from the burial team staging area in Bo to the nearby Bendu community, where the team leader explains to mourners what is about to happen.

Maseray learns her first call is to bury a baby – the 1,686th victim interred by a World Vision burial team. More than 3,800 people have died from Ebola in Sierra Leone.

The team speaks to the family, and then Maseray leads her colleagues to the house. Maseray emerges holding the shrouded, lifeless child close to her chest.

Normally, the burial teams lay the body down while the imam or pastor says a brief prayer.

“This is even more important for me, as a mother myself," Maseray says, "It is really important for me to bury my fellow mother’s child in a safe and dignified way.”

During the prayers, Maseray embraces the child.

As the team treads through the forest to the burial site, Maseray cradles the child in her arms, approaching the gravesite slowly.

“I want to give this child a great farewell,” Maseray says. “I want to walk the child in peace.”

After gently lowering the body into the grave, Maseray carefully covers it with sticks. Finally, she takes a wooden stake with a number plate fastened to it, and puts it on the grave.

There's no name on the plate. Just a number. She commits it to memory. 

“1,686 … that’s my number,” she says.

Photo©2015 Jonathan Bundu/World Vision

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