The much frowned upon practice of cremating dead bodies in Liberia is now a thing of the past as the government has now abolished the act.
In doing away with the highly unpopular incineration of the dead, the government has provided an alternative by establishing a new national cemetery for the purpose of burying Ebola victims and others.
Cremation of dead bodies is not and has never been a part of the Liberian culture, but the Liberian government was forced, during the heat of the Ebola crisis, to initiate the practice in an effort to curtail further spread of the virus.
Cremation was, however, met with a barrage of criticism and resistance from the public. Many families hid the corpses of their relatives and performed secret burials to evade cremation.
The government said that the Ebola Virus Disease had become hard to contain in all parts of the country because some Liberians do not want the bodies of their relatives and friends who had fallen prey to the virus, to be burnt (cremated).
It is against this backdrop that the government, through the Traditional Council of Liberia, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and a United States based non-governmental organization, Global Communities, acquired a 25-acre parcel of land, which is now ready for use as a cemetery.
The land, which was officially opened by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last week, is situated behind the Disco Hill Community, Margibi County, along the Robertsfield Highway.
The locals priced the land at US$50,000 which government agreed to pay. An initial payment of US$25,000 has been made with a commitment to make the final payment once a Memorandum of Understanding is reached between Government and the people of Disco Hill Community.
The residents are also requesting for the construction of a primary school, clinic, road, and safe drinking water in their community.
Chief Zanzan Karwor presented the check for US$25,000 on behalf of the Government of Liberia, while Chief Julius Kaizon received the check on behalf of his community. President Sirleaf witnessed the presentation.
This new burial site will enable relatives and loved ones to identify the graves of Ebola victims, a benefit they have yearned for over cremation.
The site has two sections for Christians and Muslims. Followers of these faiths will practice their rituals and ensure that their fallen beloved receive dignified and safe burials.
Speaking to journalists following a tour of the site by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently, the Coordinator of the Incident Management System, Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, said the areas have been demarcated for Christian and Muslim burials while a place has been earmarked to erect a memorial for those who were cremated.
He said victims will be identified by tombstones and relatives, friends, and even pastors and imams will be allowed to perform burial rites at the site, but void of touching.
He said securing the new burial site is to ensure that relatives, loved ones and clerics can now work with the safe burial teams and victims can have dignified burials. “This will become a national cemetery so that people will not hide dead bodies because of fear of cremation,” he stressed.
Other people who might want to bury their loved ones there can do so as the new cemetery is not for Ebola victims only, but anyone can be buried there.
Meanwhile, a US-based non-governmental organization, Global Communities, informed the gathering that a well has been completed in the community, while the road is being rehabilitated. Global Communities has also committed to building a primary school for the Disco Hill Community.