MoH Turns Over Ebola Dead to Internal Affairs

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The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) has turned over responsibility for the handling of Ebola dead to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA).

Scores of family and community members calling the hotline numbers say they are not getting through; and those who are getting through say they have to wait for hours.

Upon receiving reports that four bodies suspected to be Ebola victims had been found in Bo Waterside and needed to be removed, the Observer contacted Minister of Health, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale.

The Minister of Health told the Observer that his primary obligation is to the living, not the dead. Overwhelmed with too many other pressing issues, he could not shoulder the burden of the dead, he said. He told this publication that he has therefore asked the President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to turn that aspect over to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA).

This information was confirmed by a senior official at the MIA, who said the ministry is doing the best it can to handle the bodies but is struggling to cope, especially with those infected byEbola.

"We are overwhelmed," the official said. "Burial is a technical matter, and we only have one technical team leader trained by MSF."

Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) also trains Red Cross technicians.

The official said the MIA took 25 bodies up to Tubmanburg in Bomi County for burial Saturday, August 2, but were rejected by the county's leadership and people. The bodies had to be brought back to Monrovia. The MIA is now attempting to bury the bodies in Johnsonville. The body of a man from Sime Darby's oil palm plantation in Bomi, who had gone on a visit to Cape Mount and died, also needs to be retrieved. 

The MIA says it has no technical capacity for pick up, bagging, spraying and burial of dead bodies, especially those from Ebola. The Ministry says it also needs goggles, gloves, overgarments and masks.

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