The mayor of Kenema, Sierra Leone has condemned Ebola Burial Team workers for using the corpses of Ebola victims to protest their lack of payment. The protesters, who have not yet received their salaries for two months, publicly displayed the dead bodies they work with in the city.
“This was an unwarranted situation to drag dead bodies from the morgue and display in the full view of the people including relatives,” said Solomon Williams.
He admitted the team went two months without payment for their work while people with the Red Cross and the International Rescue Committee received money. His team met with the Ebola Taskforce, but “were treated with scorn.” Williams told his men to continue working or go home. Williams decided to go home.
“On my way home, someone called me to say my men were protesting around the hospital, displaying dead bodies,” he said. “When I returned to the hospital it was unbelievable to see some of my men performing such an inhuman act.”
Officials said workers left fifteen bodies, three of which were children, in the city’s main hospital. The treatment of the bodies is inhumane, but also puts healthy people at risk for the disease. These bodies are most contagious after death since Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids. Authorities fired those responsible.
“I am disappointed that they displayed the bodies because of the quest for money,” said Paul Conteh, head of the National Ebola Response Center. “They ignored the dignity and respect for the dead. I am not against them withholding their services but this is unacceptable.”
Ebola hit Sierra Leone hard, with over 1,200 deaths. It first appeared in Kenema. Authorities thought health workers contained the disease, but a person died last week “after the city had gone more than three weeks without new infections.”