What you need to know:
- Dr Geofrey Bwire, the assistant commissioner in the Ministry of Health, said when specialised district burial teams bury those who have died of Ebola, residents exhume the bodies at night to perform rituals on them
- Residents reportedly wait for burial teams to leave and exhume the bodies at night to perform rituals on them.
Exhumation of bodies by locals in Kassanda is the main cause of the escalating Ebola cases in the district, a top health official has said.
Dr Geofrey Bwire, the assistant commissioner in the Ministry of Health, said when specialised district burial teams bury those who have died of Ebola, residents exhume the bodies at night to perform rituals on them.
“About two weeks ago, our teams buried someone in Kalwana Village, Kikandwa Sub-county, who had succumbed to Ebola but the locals waited for them to leave and at night, they exhumed the body and performed burial rituals on it. Since bodies of those who have died from Ebola are highly infectious, many people were infected,” Dr Bwire told a meeting on Ebola response in the district yesterday.
He said following the exhumation, 23 confirmed cases were registered out of the total 42 in the district, adding that 546 contacts were traced out of that burial.
The Health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, cautioned residents against exhuming the bodies, saying they risk having the district population wiped away.
“The communities need to understand that those bodies are very infectious. That is the message the leaders need to carry to the communities,” Dr Aceng said. Dr Godfrey Ekuka, an official from the Health ministry, called for beefing up of their burial teams with more police officers, saying some errant locals had threatened to beat them up.
Dr Munir Safieldin, the Unicef representative, called for more community sensitisation.
“The communities highly regard rituals. So we need to have a different approach to behaviour change and that is what we advocate for at Unicef. There are not enough police officers to guard the graves of those who have died of Ebola but sensitising them (residents) about the dangers of touching bodies would solve this challenge,” Dr Safieldin said.