UN: WHO unveils step-by-step guide to safe, dignified burials for Ebola victims

New York, US (PANA) - Involving family members of people who have died from Ebola and encouraging religious rites are essential elements to ensure safe and dignified burials for victims of the virus, according to a new protocol by the World Health Organization (WHO).

A WHO statement on Friday said that at least 20 per cent of new Ebola infections occurred during burials, stating that the infection could be passed on when family and community members performed religious rites that required directly touching or washing the infectious body.

The new protocol set out 12 steps for burial teams to follow in areas affected by Ebola, including how to prepare the family for the burial process and how to place the body of the person who has died in a body bag.

Dr. Pierre Formenty, one of WHOs leading Ebola experts, said: "By building trust and respect between burial teams, bereaved families and religious groups, we are building trust and safety in the response itself."

He said the protocol was developed by an interdisciplinary WHO team in tandem with faith-based organizations and encouraged the inclusion of family and local clergy in the planning and preparation of the burial, as well as the burial itself.

He noted that the protocol fell in line with a UN-wide directive aimed at managing and treating 70 per cent of Ebola cases and making safe 70 per cent of burials by 1 December.

In addition, the protocol provides sensitivity guidelines for when Ebola burial teams first meet victims' families, including abstaining from wearing personal protective equipment and asking the family if there were specific requests for managing the burial and personal effects of the deceased.

"Introducing components such as inviting the family to be involved in digging the grave and offering options for dry ablution and shrouding will make a significant difference in curbing Ebola transmission," Dr. Formenty added.

The statement also quoted Ms. Sally Smith, Community Mobilization Adviser for Faith Based Organizations at UNAIDS, as saying that infections could be reduced if there was more involvement of families of victims and their communities.

She said: "We know that the public health practices actually are necessary to perform but we have got to listen to the communities to see it from their perspective. What are the religious and cultural practices that are essential to them and where is the common ground? What of those practices we can conserve and we can take in to the protocol and what are actually a source of infection?

"And by dialogue with those religious communities we can come to a place where they understand the need for those protective measures that are clinically necessary but at the same time you can respect some of their beliefs, their values, their cultures, their traditions and involve them in those processes, in those dialogues, in those conversations, and actually in the burial itself," she stressed.

Meanwhile, the UN children's agency (UNICEF), stated that its massive Ebola operation in the most-affected countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, would see a doubling of supplies for frontline health workers, including a newly developed "coverall impermeable" to the Ebola virus.

In a statement, it said based on the agency's planned scale-up, UNICEF would need at least 1 million of the new coveralls by 1 December, in addition to supplies of other protective gear, chlorine and essential medicines.

It said the number of UNICEF staff on the ground would double from 300 to 600, with a particular focus on being with the communities to support social mobilization and to help service delivery.

"This is the most complex emergency to which we have ever had to respond, and it has required agility in the provision of products, supply chains and service delivery," said Shanelle Hall, Director of UNICEFs global supply and logistics operations.

She said that supply chains had had to be flexible, and meet extremely high standards of quality.

UNICEF said it was working with governments, industry and partners to establish whole new supply chains to deliver dozens of new products to new service delivery locations.

It said the UN's efforts aimed at controlling the Ebola outbreak would be dealt a substantial assist when an experimental vaccine, currently undergoing laboratory testing, was issued to the affected West African nations.

The vaccine could be dispatched as early as January 2015.
-0- PANA AA/MA 7Nov2014

07 november 2014 22:16:49

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