By Septimus Senessie in Kono…
A Christian nongovernmental organisation, World Vision Sierra Leone and the humanitarian group the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) have taken over the Ebola management and burial in the eastern Kono district.
While IFRC is dealing with the management of the outbreak, World Vision is addressing the burials. The Christian NGO encouraged communities to trust their dead with trained burial people and minimise infection rate.
The six-month long DfID-sponsored project started in November and will be implemented in five other districts – Bo, Pujehun, Bonthe, Moyamba and Tonkolili.
World Vision said it would also equip the Ebola Command Centre at the Resettlement Camp in Koidu and recruit two more burial teams in addition to the existing two, because the death rate in the district had increased beyond expectation.
World Vision manager in the district, Catharine Agatha Sillah, told the 26-member burial team that they had decided to take up the burial pillar in the fight against Ebola to provide “safe and dignified burial” while preventing bereaved family members from touching dead bodies that could be highly contagious.
She said that since the outbreak in the country they had found out that people were refusing to hand over their dead bodies to the Ebola burial teams “because of the disgraceful and disrespectful ways they handle them”.
She said the only way to mitigate that problem was through dignified burial of dead bodies which would give enough confidence to communities to allow for burial by professionals.
Sillah said they had made an arrangement with the Inter-Religious Council to offer prayers on dead bodies at gravesites, albeit from at a distance, adding that all graves would have an epitaph for easy identification by bereaved families who would want to visit those sites after the outbreak.
Team leader of the Ebola command centre in Kono district, Major Julius Samuel Crosby from the Ninth Infantry Battalion at Sembakoro, called on burial teams to give maximum respect to the dead urging them to endeavour to protect themselves against contracting the virus.
Meanwhile, the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) in Kenema district have been placed in charge of the Kono district Ebola case management and treatment following a huge number of new confirmed Ebola cases in the last two weeks of November.
In an exclusive interview with Politico the deputy team leader of IFRC in the Eastern Region, Erik Lundblad said they focused attention to the Kono district after it “turned out a huge number of new confirmed Ebola cases at the Kenema Treatment centre”.
He said they had they had constructed a holding centre at the Koidu town hospital premises with the aim of separating Ebola patients from the non-Ebola ones.
“We have started the construction of a 65-bed Ebola Treatment Centre at Dorma Town in the Gbense chiefdom which will be in use before the start of the New Year. It will be well equipped with all treatment facilities and will be operated and managed by personnel of the Federation”, he assured.
The Chairman of the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society in the district, Reverend Sahr Christian Fayah, said he was impressed with the “dramatic change” made so far by the IFRC since they arrived in the district. He said they were also involved in the collection of dead bodies in the 14 chiefdoms of the district in line with the safe and dignified burial pillar in the Ebola fight.
When contacted, the District Coordinator of the Ebola Response Centre, Paramount Chief Paul Gabba Saquee V of Tankoro Chiefdom also thanked the Federation for taking over the Ebola case management pillar.
He dismissed claims by WHO that dead bodies littered the hospital compound, describing it as “figment of their imagination”, and added that “when the WHO spokesperson arrived in the district there were only three dead bodies at the hospital awaiting burial”.