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Photos: A day in the life of an Ebola burial team in Liberia

Published 11/10/2014 by Global Communities

Photos: A day in the life of an Ebola burial team in Liberia
This photo essay originally appeared on Photos by Josh Balser/Global Communities.

While cremation remains the safest way to manage the bodies of Ebola victims, it’s being met with strong resistance West Africa.
For villagers in Kakata, Liberia, it goes completely against ancient burial traditions of touching and washing the dead.
“People touch the body while they’re crying,” said government worker George Woryounwo. “They cook, they eat and they sleep together for one or two weeks before burial. And now we are saying ‘don’t allow the body to be there for 24 hours.’”
A person who has passed away from Ebola is unceremoniously packed away in a double-layered protective bag and sent to a community cemetery. Devastated villagers are only given only a glimpse of the shrouded body, before the ruthlessly efficient burial.
These photos follow a burial team in Kakata as they perform their heartbreaking and harrowing job: 

On this particularly hot day, the team is charged with transporting a body that had to be reached by walking above a swamp on a bridge made from sticks tied together with vines.

After a long walk into the bush, the burial team begins suiting up, following strict new guidelines. Despite the incredible heat and difficult location, the team properly dons their full gear, performing their work professionally and respectfully.

The team sprays chlorine as they move back to the village, stopping several times along the way. The body is just too heavy.

Family members and villagers can only say their farewells from a distance.

Every piece of contaminated clothing is thrown in with the corpse. But inside that chlorinated body bag lies a man who was loved.

Burying those who have passed away from Ebola is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, but an important one. “I am proud to be part of the burial team,” says worker Frieda Forkpah. “Because I was the first female to join the team.”

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Global Communities is an international non-profit organization that works closely with communities worldwide to bring about sustainable changes that improve the lives and livelihoods of the vulnerable. The Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) is funding these efforts in Liberia.  Learn more about Global Communities Ebola response activities here.