The memorialization of the dead on every second Wednesday in March, known as Decoration Day, has taken on a new meaning to many, particularly so to survivors and family members, as well as relatives and friends, of Liberians and foreign residents alike who died by the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
The Daily Observer on Wednesday, March 14 paid a visit to the now national burial site along the road to Marshall city , which hosts the remains of thousands of victims of the EVD. This newspaper came in contact with scores of mourners who said their losses have left terrible scars of generational memories which may not be erased even in a century.
Desperately heartbroken Sianneh Beyan, a 31-year-old mother of five, told journalists that she lost eight (8) persons, including her husband, to the deadly EVD at her then Duport Road-Cow Factory community in 2014.
“No father, immediate uncle or aunt for my children. No one is there to help me send them to school because they all (husband and some family members) lost their lives to Ebola. I am now a single parent, and I sell cooked food around in order to take care of them,” Mrs. Beyan said, with tears running down her cheeks.
She said she was affected by EVD but survived it through the grace of God. “I was diagnosed of Ebola but when taken to the MSF Ebola care center at ELWA, I came through. God did it for me but, oh, I did not see my husband and his uncle, sister and some of his other family members who were also taken to the MSF Ebola care center,” she explained.
Beyan said since the passing of her husband and some of her in-laws, who used to help take care of her children’s school fees and other basic needs, no one has come forward to help her, even though lots of promises and commitments were made by several persons, including some in government.
As concerns anyone wishing to help her, most especially to pay the school fees of any of her children, she said she could be reached on 0776112335 and 0886112335.
The manager of the burial site, Kortoson M. Pellewuwan, said the upkeep of the site is becoming very difficult due to lack of sufficient manpower and supplies, including materials that they need to do their work efficiently.
“We were 128 staffs here but today we are only twenty-eight. Out of the twenty-eight, we are only two who are receiving stipends from the government while others are contractors.
This site is composed of twenty-five acres of land and is a big place that needs proper care,” Pellewuwan said.
He noted that the site is also used for the disposal of medical waste and related items from hospitals and clinics, as well as the burial of the remains of abandoned bodies, particularly alleged criminals, who get killed by mobsters as well as bodies neglected or abandoned at JFK medical center by people.
He called on the government through the National Public Health Institute (NPHI) to make available a vehicle that would transport them from Monrovia and its environs to the site (along the Schiefflin -Marshall highway).
“I pay over L$400 every day to travel from Johnsonville to this place and the case is the same with my fellow workers here as they all come from either Monrovia or near Monrovia,” he said. He appealed that government includes twenty-six of his staff on a regular monthly stipend so as to keep them at work.
Pellewuwan said there will soon be a shortage of burial spots at the site if the government does not secure the remaining seventy-five acres it promised to get for burial purposes. “Only twenty-five of the hundred acres of land has been secured by the government and this is finishing already,” he said.
Responding to Pellewuwan’s update on happenings and challenges at the National Burial Site, Margibi County Electoral District #1 Representative Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh said he will not sit idly by and let the burial site lose its significant historic nature.
“This place is among the tourist sites that we need to take good care of. Ebola destroyed the precious lives of a good number of our fellow compatriots and the many whose remains were cremated (burnt) here. We have to take good care of this site by doing all we can in our power to help its caretakers get a decent livelihood,” Tarponweh assured.
He said as chairman on investment and concessions at the House of Representatives at the Capitol, he will seek the support of his colleagues to appropriate a budget and other measures that will maintain a touristic nature of the place and bring some relief to survivors of the EVD who lost their loved ones.
He noted that some people died at the time Ebola was raging not because they were confirmed positive with the virus but due to the poor healthcare system the country inherited long ago.
“It makes me sad each time I come here and see hundreds of family members, relatives and friends grieving over the loss of their loved ones to the deadly Ebola virus disease,” he said, noting that the government will need to take robust action to ensure a strong monitoring system that will help weed out impassionate (wicked, callous) healthcare providers who are allegedly responsible for the death of several hundreds due to negligence or unprofessionalism.
“Not everyone who goes to a medical school is a doctor and not every doctor is a surgeon. We need specialists for various medical cases and better pay for better jobs,” Tarponweh noted.
According to him, healthcare providers who are found guilty of loss of lives due to negligence and poor performance should bear the full weight of the law.
He said he was part of a number of teams in Margibi who fought for the survival of many residents of not only his district but the county at large. Because of his contributions through the provision of hand sanitizers, buckets, chlorine and several other healthcare items, as well as food, the people of his district saw the need to petition him to contest the Representative seat, which he won from Oscar Opee Cooper at the October 10, 2017, polls.
While laying the wreath on the tomb bearing the combusted (burnt) bones of most of the EVD victims, Tarponweh said with tears that he prays and hopes that Liberia reaches a level where no citizen or an alien or visitor dies because of lack of proper healthcare.
It may be recalled that in late March of 2014, Ebola patients from Guinea crossed over to Liberia. The few cases, which were not given prompt attention and care by the government, spread across the country thereby killing over 4,000 persons, including men, women, and children.
The EVD took the lives of over ten thousand persons in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia in general and left its survivors and close friends still struggling to do away with its challenging nightmare.
It came to an end in 2015 when the World Health Organization (WHO) and the international community mobilized support and resources to fight the disease.