(VOA News) With Ebola having killed more than 2,000 people in Sierra Leone, and unsafe burial practices possibly being responsible for up to 70 percent of new infections, officials said they are resorting to increasingly desperate measures to clamp down on traditional burials in the country.
Officials have even threatened to jail people – once it’s clear they have not caught the disease – who prepare the corpses of their loved ones.
“Burials and funerals are deeply, deeply ingrained in Sierra Leone,” said Austin Demby, a Sierra Leonean-American epidemiologist. He is the director of a U.S. government AIDS program but has been helping with Ebola containment.
According to the latest World Health Organization figures, 7,373 people have died of Ebola in the three worst-affected countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Old ways are hard to break, though. Funerals are important social occasions in the three most-affected countries, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. People often travel great distances to attend and bodies are typically washed and dressed by relatives or friends.
Many believe a traditional burial is necessary to make sure the dead don’t return to haunt the living. And during the course of a funeral, many people touch the body… (read more)