Bodies of those who have died from Ebola carry high concentrations of the virus that can spread to others through contact. Safe and dignified burials honor the dead and their families while keeping them safe.
Early in November, Betty Thomas died of Ebola at age 42, leaving two sons, ages 13 and 15. When the World Vision burial team arrived at her village in Moyamba district of Sierra Leone, they were met by somber relatives and friends who listened quietly to the team leader’s explanation of the burial process.
Then the team put on protective gear, a 10- to 15-minute process that includes each one putting on three pairs of gloves, and wrapped and removed Betty’s body from her home, while also spraying disinfectant. Her pastor led a short service, including the Lord’s Prayer, and Betty’s body was taken away to be buried. Relatives were permitted to follow the team to the grave.
“I am happy that we are able to give our sister a befitting burial,” says Moses, a village elder. “This was not the case months back.”
Jonathan Bundu, World Vision staff member, describes chaotic scenes in the early days of the outbreak. “Families resisted having their loved ones [wrapped in] plastic and dumped in a van without paying respect,” he says. “Police would come to the scene and start firing tear gas.”
Bodies of those who have died from Ebola carry high concentrations of the virus that can spread to others through contact. Family members and friends who follow the local practice of washing and preparing their loved ones’ bodies for burial are at high risk of contracting the disease.
Providing safe and dignified burials for people who die from Ebola is a key to preventing the spread of the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
With funding from the British Department for International Development (DFID), World Vision is taking a leadership role in training, equipping, and coordinating burial teams to provide burials for Ebola victims in Sierra Leone that preserve tradition, yet prevent contamination from spreading.
World Vision coordinates burial teams in six districts of Sierra Leone. When a death call comes into one of the organization’s call centers, an eight-man team responds.
“World Vision burial teams are working nonstop,” says staff member Bruno Col. Forty team members have been trained, and more are being trained and equipped.
In an all-out effort to curb the spread of Ebola, World Vision provides protective gear to health clinics and has trained health workers, religious leaders, and civic groups in effective prevention and safety measures.
Photo ©2014 Jonathan Bundu / World Vision