From the Editor’s Keyboard

Train local burial teams

By  | 31 December 2014 at 22:01 | 1601 views

One major reason we keep seeing new Ebola cases in some parts of our country, Sierra Leone, is unsafe burial practices; this is a unanimous realization among medical personnel and the general public. President Ernest Bai Koroma and Information Minister Alpha Kanu are never tired of repeating it. That is a major problem to overcome if we are to finally overcome this Ebola tragedy. We are however optimistic that we are getting there gradually (see today’s statistics from NERC below).

Back to burial practices: Anybody that knows our country well would tell you that each community has one or several types of burial practices: Islamic, Christian, traditional (which includes African and Western secret society burials).

Every village and town in Sierra Leone has some or all of these burial practices. Two of them can be combined at the same time in some cases.

When the Ebola epidemic hit the country, the government, aware of the danger involved in allowing these burial practices to continue unsupervised, decided to have trained burial teams to do the burying. The result is that dying ebola-infected people started going to their villages to be buried in the traditional way, people started hiding sick relatives in their houses and when they (relatives) die, they would take them away somewhere during the night to be buried in the traditional way or to be buried in what they perceive as a "dignified" way. This happens in both rural and urban areas, among people from all walks of life. Traditional and non-traditional practices have a firm hold on our people and people all over the world.

So what is the solution? As I see it, burial teams in every hamlet, village and town should be composed of people from that hamlet, village or town. They should be trained in safe methods of burial including how to put on protective gear (which even an illiterate person can master).

But apart from safety precautions, community burial teams inspire confidence and trust. They also understand and know all about the beliefs in their community and through the scientific training they would receive, will know how to prevent a catastrophe. An added bonus is that the rest of the community will see each of them as "one of us" and will readily work with them to have safe burials. It will then be a fusion of science and tradition to provide safe results.

Here is an update on Ebola new cases around the country published by the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC):

Ebola Outbreak Updates---December 31, 2014

Discharged Cases
Total Survived and Discharged Cases = 1,811

New Cases:
New Confirmed cases = 39 as follows:
Kailahun = 0, Kenema = 0, Kono = 3
Bombali = 1, Kambia = 0, Koinadugu = 3, Port Loko = 5, Tonkolili = 0
Bo = 1, Bonthe = 0, Moyamba = 2, Pujehun = 0
Western Area Urban = 18, Western Area Rural = 6