Workers at the government-run Ebola crematorium once operated by the Indian Community have threatened to cause a disruption by scattering the remains of Ebola victims on to the Robertsfield Highway if Government fails to pay their salaries.
Speaking to the Daily Observer at the start of a six-month psychosocial counseling program, recently, one of the aggrieved crematorium workers, Robert Beer, noted that since government announced that there would be no more cremation of Ebola victims, crematorium workers were reportedly told to hold on until their benefits are determined. But since then, there has been no commitment from the government, said Beer.
Since government stopped the burning of Ebola dead late December 2014 and regular burial practices were resumed, the men who carried out the cremation said they have not been paid a dime and government had allegedly owed them for two weeks.
According to Beer, during the heat of the Ebola crisis, government pleaded with them to assist with the cremation of Ebola victims in order to stop the further spread of the disease.
“It was because of sympathy and patriotism that we decided to join government in rendering our services. Unfortunately, since the virus is now becoming history the very people who were begging us have now abandoned us since November,” he charged.
Beer said they were being paid US$200 weekly and used to cremate about 150 to 200 bodies a day. He stated that it was a risky job especially as it was done during the Rainy Season. He disclosed that most of them have been neglected by their families and are being stigmatized by some in the community. He added: “Then the government, too, which should provide us reintegration packages as well as counseling, chose to also neglect us.”
Speaking during the opening of the counseling workshop, the chairman of Sengbe Psychotherapeutic Group, Inc, Dr. Kpangbala Sengbe, said after a crisis like that of the Ebola outbreak the psychosocial needs of the people affected should not be overlooked.
Sengbe urged government and partners to provide adequate psychosocial counseling for affected communities, including the people of Boys Town.
“The same way when people were sick they were taken to the ETUs and provided medical support is the same way communities affected by the Ebola and primitive cremation should be provided psychosocial services,” Sengbe stated.
The counseling workshop was conducted by Sengbe Group, Inc. and Renewed Energy Serving Humanity (RESH).
Also speaking, the general coordinator of RESH, Ernest G. Smith, said if the psychosocial and physical needs of the men, who took part in the cremating of the bodies are not met, there would be an emergence of mentally-disabled, criminal-minded people and violence in that community as a result of the trauma created by the burning of fellow human beings and the amount of money those men got used to which they are now demanding that they be paid.
He applauded the Boys Town community dwellers for their resilience, further stressing that it is not an easy thing for one to lose their identity and be identified or labeled negatively
“One reality that is outstanding is that this community deserves help and I am so proud of you that you guys did not sit and wait for the requisite help you deserve, rather you went out and scouted for the help you need,” he noted.
The six-month psychosocial counseling is an initiative of Mr. Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh, lead Advocate and community advisor of the Boys Town Communities.