It is an unenviable job burying the bodies of Ebola victims but in Sierra Leone some grave diggers have gone on strike over the non-payment of a weekly risk allowance.
The strike could worsen the outbreak of Ebola in the country which recorded 121 deaths and scores of new infections in one of the single deadliest days last week.
Because the Ebola virus is highly infectious and remains active in the corpses of victims, disposing of the bodies is a dangerous occupation.
The diggers should be given protective clothing but its mostly bleach which is used to spray the corpses and the area where they are buried.
If the grave workers don’t do their job, bodies will be left in the streets adding to the sense of fear and anger in the community. But although it is a vital service the workers have found themselves shunned and stigmatised.
William Sao Lamin is a member of the NGO ‘Health Alert Sierra Leone’. He said:
“Since May until now there have been over 60 deaths among public health workers in Sierra Leone. I think that is very serious, it’s really discouraging, and more has to be done if we are to reduce the number. But I will tell you for free, the number is going to rise.”
The grave diggers have been burying between 17 and 35 bodies every day. Each team has 12 members who earns about $100 (79 euros) a week. Along with health care personnel working in clinics, it is one of the toughest jobs in the country.