Following the resurgence of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in neighboring Guinea, Sierra Leone Red Cross Society (SLRCS) through its EVD preparedness programme and with DREF funds from the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC), has trained volunteers on safe and dignified burial in preparedness for any EVD outbreak in Sierra Leone.
The EVD resurgence in Guinea prompted the Government of Sierra Leone to summon emergency meetings of all partners to discuss around Preparedness measures for any outbreak of the epidemic in the country by reactivating all the pillars that worked assiduously to develop a National Ebola Preparedness Plan and Budget, which was launched by the Minister of Health and Sanitation in May 2021.
SLRCS Being the first responder in disasters and health emergencies, with resources from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) supported some key activities in the Government’s EVD preparedness plans including training of one Burial team of 10 volunteers on safe and dignified burial in Kono District because of its nearness to the borders with the Republic of Guinea.
The volunteers were trained on Dead Body Management processes and on ways to make sure that families and communities fully understand, accept and support the SDB process. This move is to ensure that bereaved community members are considered, respected, and involved throughout the burial process, it also gives them the unique opportunity to give their feedbacks and ensure they are addressed. To involve bereaved families and communities in the burial of their loved ones will help communities deal with their loss, and reduce stigma and stress, while helping family members and the community understand the risks of EVD.
In readiness for the outbreak of the disease; it is essential to integrate all elements of the response, including to coordinate, surveillance, case management, RCCE, and other pillars of the response through an established coordination structure; as in EVD infections, the viral load in dead body is very high and has the risk of infecting people that may come in direct of it. The virus can survive for several hours on dry surfaces and several days in body fluids at room temperature or in a corpse which is why the training of members of burial teams was necessary.
Red Cross Branch Management in Kono District and several other Branches, with a strong network of volunteers in all chiefdoms had earlier started engagements with stakeholders’ and community residents to raise awareness on some of the preventive measures to fight Ebola in the country in case there is any outbreak.