COVID-19 : Burying our dead without funerals, a new way

Social distancing restrictions have brought a new way of burying victims. Burials now take place without religious or traditional rites, eulogies, crowds and just a handful of family members in attendance. 

There have been no pallbearers, professional mourners, hearses and ultimately no funeral homes involved with preparing the bodies of Cameroon’s 43 victims for burial.

Most persons who die of COVID-19 are interred in public cemeteries, an unusual and inconvenient place for family members.

Hurting family members who wish wish  to conduct a dignified funeral ceremony, to pay last respects to their loved one say, they feel disappointed. Grieving a lost one in the COVID-19 era has never been this unusual.

But the hardest pill to swallow is that burial takes place only a few hours after death is reported, with very few available family members. Most family members are not privileged to see the remains of their relatives.

Families in Cameroon which have gone through this unceremonious burial procedure have raised concerns.

The funeral that preserves lives

Officials of Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health acknowledge that the burial procedure of COVID-19 victims is uncommon and inconvenient. But, they argue that it is the most appropriate way of disposing of bodies that can further spread the virus to others, if relatives are left to interact with corpses.

It is a question of making a choice between honoring the dead with ritual ceremonies and preserving the lives of the living.

The official burial procedure of COVID-19 victims in Cameroon is being finalized, but burials are being conducted with the help of a provisional procedure.

Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute in a recent press release, instructs health officials to ensure that victims “are buried where they die, to prevent further contamination”.

Accordingly, when patients die, the demise is immediately reported to the emergency via the toll free number, 1510.

Health workers from the closest health district are then called in to prepare  and coffin the body before proceeding with burial,  in collaboration with council officials.

Most persons who lost their lives to the deadly disease are buried in public cemeteries, in areas where they died.

Making Money From Cemeteries

The government of Cameroon covers the entire cost of screening and treating COVID-19 patients, and even burial.

However, a recent release from the Minister of Decentralization and Local Development, has revealed that some council officials requests payment for burial space from some families.

Minister George Elanga Obam has frowned at the illicit practice, and reiterates that all burial rites must be conducted free of charge, including the provision of caskets.

He adds that burials should be conducted in strict respect of hygienic standards set up by officials of the Ministry of Public Health.


Kathy Neba Sina

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