Families in Liberia are reportedly bribing retrieval teams to let them keep their loved ones’ bodies and give them traditional burials.
“The virus is highly infectious through exposure to bodily fluids, and its early rapid spread in west Africa was attributed in part to relatives touching victims during traditional funeral rites,” the Mail said Wednesday.
Retrieval teams are responsible for collecting the bodies of victims. The Liberian government has ordered that Ebola victims should be cremated.
More than 4,000 people in Africa have now died from the virus.
Grieving family members are said to be paying between $40 and $150 for death certificates from retrieval teams that don’t show Ebola as the cause of death.
Liberian funerals typically include washing the body and keeping it for a wake that can last days as relatives and friends come by and kiss the corpse before it is buried, often in a family cemetery nearby. In addition, Ebola infection carries a stigma in the country and people sometimes don’t want to admit a family member died of the disease.
Vincent Chounse, a community outreach worker from Monrovia, told the Journal: “The family says the person is not an Ebola patient, and (the retrieval team) pull them away from the other people.”
The Liberian government has said the retrieval teams don’t have any authority to issue death certificates.
Liberia has been the worst hit by the Ebola outbreak, with more than 2,000 dead.
A young man in Liberia who lived next door to an Ebola victim told the WSJ he’s confused about why the government tells residents to call the body-retrieval teams and then the teams don’t insist on taking the corpses.
“They told us not to bury the bodies. They told us to call. But now I am not sure if they are the ones trying to eradicate this virus or to make it grow.”
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.