“Unfortunately, the dead bodies of Ebola victims are actually almost at their most contagious and remain so for up to 10 days after the person has deceased. So, washing of the bodies or open casket and contact with the bodies – the difficulty with Ebola of course is that it’s spread by bodily fluid and contact with the person who has died. And at this hugely contagious stage of the virus in those bodies it was an absolute disaster for families to be exposing themselves in that way during the traditional burial,” she said.
The decision to cremate bodies and end traditional burials dramatically affected a way of life for saying goodbye to the dead.
Dullard said, “This is a huge, huge cultural change for Liberians because it meant not only had they just lost one of their loved ones, they’re also suddenly being told that they can’t perform the regular rituals that they have to honor their dead, which was of course completely traumatic as I’m sure anyone who’s lost a loved one can imagine.”
The Red Cross trained 150 volunteers and from last July to April of this year safely buried more than 3,500 bodies. Dullard doubts Liberia would be on the verge of being Ebola-free unless burial protocols were strictly enforced. “Prevention, obviously, is paramount and getting those messages out there on how not to contract the disease,” she said.
Yes a huge, huge cultural change for Liberians in so many ways, safe burials being only one. Namesake Deborah takes her own food and water to school now that school has reopened and cannot share with others as she did before Ebola; her class size is limited so there is less human contact. Friend Daniel cannot pick up people along the roadside in distress and offer assistance as he always did; it is just not safe. Ebola survivors are being stigmatized instead of celebrated. A new normal is developing being fueled by fear and distrust and worry; such a huge cultural change for Liberians… So time for love instead of fear.
We are moments away from releasing a few trailers for the documentary the Foundation for Women and KeyPoint Films is producing – the first opportunity for the world to hear directly from our human family members in Liberia about this unprecedented crisis and its effect on their lives, their stories told by them…
Please continue to pray for and send love to the people and country of Liberia, and all affected by this Ebola epidemic.
With love and gratitude ~ Deborah