Balakerthela is located in the Konoyea Clan in Salala District and it is one of the communities hardest hit by Ebola deaths which forced the County Health Team (CHT) to quarantine the area last August.
Thirty-two suspected Ebola deaths were recorded in a CHT statistics report for August in Balakerthela.
Speaking through an interpreter last weekend in Balakerthela, Singbeh Duwah said he decided to bury the suspected Ebola bodies because the Burial Team of the CHT failed to act quickly to bury the bodies.
“Sometimes there are about three to four dead bodies in the village in a day’s time and the corpses would remain in the village for three days awaiting the arrival of the burial team. At the same time the Health Team is telling us that the longer you keep the dead bodies, the faster the disease will spread”, Singbeh exclaimed.
The traditional old man disclosed that he mobilized two of his friends to carry out the burials. “If you called the Burial Team to come and take away the corpses, they will sometimes delay for two or three days and we cannot sit and see the bodies decompose to contaminate the rest of the people,” old man Singbeh declared.
When cross-examined about what precisely he used to conduct the burial in the absence of the standard personal protective equipment (PPE), the old man narrated how he applied traditional herbs on the corpses and also rubbed these herbs on himself and his colleagues before carrying out the interments.
These herbs when used on a dead body, will prevent it from smelling horrible for a week, Mr. Singbeh disclosed.
“The townspeople only help with the digging of the grave but we are the ones to place the bodies in the graves” the old man Singbeh remarked, pounding his chest with his right hand.
He informed this reporter that he has been in the business for the past thirty years but was swift to acknowledge that one of his helpers, whose identity was not established, just died a week ago. But Sengbe said he was not exactly sure as to whether his colleague died from the deadly Ebola virus.
The argument around Gbarnga town and its surroundings is that the old man may be somehow immune to the virus, while others are convinced that the he is working along with the spirits of the dark world.
“If the old man were not immune to the virus, why did his colleague who has been helping him to carry on the burials fall prey to the virus?” Joseph S. Kollie a social worker asked.
David Mulbah, a health practitioner argued that Singbeh Duwah cannot be resistant to the virus when he (Singbeh) has not previously suffered and survived from the Ebola virus disease, adding that the old man is being protected by supernatural powers. It was also established by the Daily Observer that some residents of Balakerthela have left the village for sanctuary in other satellite villages for fear of contracting Ebola.
In another development, Representative Adam Bill Corneh and Senator Henry W. Yallah over the weekend made available an assortment of food and decontamination items to the Balakerthela community that is being quarantined by the CHT.
The two Bong County lawmakers told the community residents that the food will be distributed to the affected families, while the disinfectants will be used by the community members to wash their hands as instructed by health authorities.