Thirty-six men who were hired to cremate corpses during the Ebola crisis in 2014 are complaining of being stigmatized in their communities, making life unbearable for them.
The men live in Marshall, Margibi County and they say they cannot easily find work to do to earn their living, because they have been marked by residents as people who cremated Ebola corpses.
“When we walk in the community, people point at us and remark that we are Ebola body burners. As a result, people won’t give us contracts to do for a living. I have decided to tutor my two daughters at home because when they go to school, friends often tell them that their father burned Ebola bodies and this can play on them. Moreover they are not allowed to play with other children,” Franklin McCathy said.
He said as a result of the stigma, his wife has left him and now feels miserable.
“Community residents have made us to be known as ‘Ebola body burners’, and we need help to resettle elsewhere. The only thing we are asking philanthropists to do is to resettle us elsewhere,” he said.
McCathy, however, noted that they are surviving by the mercy of non-governmental organizations that occasionally give them sand digging contracts. “Without these NGOs and some UN organizations, no builder in the entire Marshall would award us contracts because we are stigmatized as Ebola body burners.”
Otis Torbor who is a builder said, “I have four children but I cannot get work as a builder to support them. I am known here as Ebola body burner, and for this reason people do not come around me.”
“I would be happy if any humanitarian group can assist me to resettle in another community where I can go on with my life,” he said.
J.T. Josiah alluded to the ordeal ex-crematorium workers are facing but noted that he is living with it and struggling to survive.
Like the others, Josiah said they were hired by the Liberian government to cremate corpses of Ebola victims in order to prevent the disease from spreading, but afterward they became stigmatized.
He said wherever they go in the community people call them ‘Ebola dead body burners,’ making it difficult for them to be associated with neighbors and other friends.
“It is difficult for us to find contracts here to do to earn a living, and we will actually need help from humanitarian workers to resettle us to another area where we will not suffer stigma,” Josiah said.
Meanwhile, the scourge is gone and all other prohibited activities including handshaking and large gatherings of people have resumed.
However, the aftermath having to do with stigma is still posing psychosocial pain to survivors and those that played major roles in fighting the virus.
Up to now survivors still complain of discrimination while many orphans are said to be still without support.
Unlike other affected countries where government reportedly constructed dwellings to host survivors and orphans, Liberia is without such homes and survivors and orphans are left with relatives to care for them.