Home / Home And Abroad / Some families affected by Ebola in Liberia pay bribes to keep the bodies

Some families affected by Ebola in Liberia pay bribes to keep the bodies

Health workers scrambling to contain the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia now have to contend with an outbreak of corruption among those detailed to collect the bodies of victims.

The Wall Street Journal reports that retrieval teams are accepting bribes from families of Ebola victims to issue death certificates that say their loved ones died of other causes, allowing them to keep their bodies for a traditional burial.

“The family says the person is not an Ebola patient, and the retrieval team pull them away from the other people,” Vincent Chounse, a community outreach worker on the outskirts of Monrovia, told the paper. “Then they say, ‘We can give you a certificate from the Ministry of Health that it wasn’t Ebola.’ Sometimes it is $40. Sometimes it is $50. … Then they offer bags to them and [the family] carry on their own thing.” A teenager in Montserrado told the Journal he saw the father of his neighbor pay $150 for a certificate that said his son’s corpse was Ebola-free.

Government Information Minister Lewis Brown told the paper his office has received reports of health workers issuing fake death certificates, but he added that no burial team has “a capacity to go and issue certificates.”

According to the World Health Organization, more than 4,000 Ebola cases have been reported in Liberia, resulting in 2,316 deaths since the outbreak began.

But local health officials say the numbers are not adding up.

“We are not receiving the amount of community calls that we should be,” Agnes “Cokie” van der Velde, who oversees body collection teams for Doctors Without Borders, told the paper.

The grim task of removing bodies infected with Ebola is critical, health officials say, because the dead are a major source of contagion.

Working against them is the stigma associated with Ebola among West Africans, and the desire for the family to have a traditional burial. Often, communities will assume that one person infected with the disease means his or her entire family is infected and therefore is discriminated against and shunned.

Van der Velde said while she was not aware of body retrieval teams accepting bribes, they are nonetheless in a tricky position. “We try to be very respectful, but in the end what we’re doing is taking their loved one, zipping them in a bag and taking them away.”


About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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4 comments

  1. I wonder if the people involved in these deadly dealings are well informed of the dangers these corpses portend to their own survival and or existence! Traditional burial rites sha! Africa and wishy washy archaic practices! I get the whole ‘stigma’ bit but this burial rites mumbo jumbo thingy….nah! Ignoramus dem! Psst!

    • That’s what happens when emotions cloud sound reason… sentiments, traditions and it’s hold on the simple minded…
      The bribes are not because the health workers are really in need of the money but because they themselves buy into the sentiments and are dumb enough to allow it to trump their knowledge of the deadly disease. Maybe they are even in denial of how a dead person can still be contagious, never underestimate the danger of educated illiteracy coupled with greed

      • shakespeareanwalter

        Denial. That’s just it. Despite the admonishments that an Ebola corpse is the deadliest contagion of the virus, grief has a way of messing up with your head and strengthening the hold of denial over your sense of good reason. It’s sad, because all this will bring about is more death all in the bid to give a deceased loved on a proper burial. Good intentions that should never be.

      • shakespeareanwalter

        ‘Let the dead bury themselves.’

        Those words never seemed more apt than here.

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