Sierra Leone Red Cross Burial Teams Attacked.

By Betty Milton…

The Red Cross Society, one of the organisation that has been in the forefront of the Ebola fight since its outbreak in Sierra Leone has raised concern on the frequent physical and verbal attack by both civilians and police personnel.
In an interview with the Beneficiary Communication Manager of Red Cross Patrick Massaquoi, he disclosed that there have been constant attacks on their burial team. “For this week alone, we have had three attacks.  In Kambia, we had a call about a corpse but before arriving at the site, we met the community had already buried the corpse through authority of the town chief, while the team was planning to leave, the youths went ahead and laid an ambush, destroying our vehicle.”

On Tuesday, the Communication Manager explained that “we were also called to collect a corpse at Western Rural at Kono Park, Waterloo. While our burial team were putting on their PPEs, the Government burial team arrived and ordered the Red Cross burial team to leave the sight and not to collect the corpse. An OSD who was part of the team threatened the Red Cross team that if they attempt to touch the corpse, they will do something drastic and within a twinkle of an eye they fired teargas canisters on our team which created tension and confusion in the area.”

Questioned about the co-ordination between the Red Cross Burial team and that of Government, although they have plotted the areas in Rural and Urban areas, the Government and Red Cross has their own area of operation “but we all receive calls from one command centre.  We were expecting the Government burial team to have treated the matter as colleagues, if they had met the Red Cross within the plotted area of the Government team.”

Patrick Massaquoi expressed shock at the behaviour of the Government burial team, “We were surprised to see them threatening our boys and for the police to fire teargas, as we are all fighting the same course. We are afraid because our volunteers are doing a risky job and if they start intimidating us, it will not be good for the team. We will not relent, but we need security because we cannot provide security ourselves so we need government support. “

In Kono also, the Red Cross Manager said “our team went out to collect a corpse, they were attacked by youths. They damaged the windscreen of the vehicle that had come from the burial. I have also been threatened to be stabbed, by some irate youths in Kono. These are the challenges that are meted out on our volunteers, while going about their duties” he explained.