A Samaritan's Purse team member hands out pamphlets to
educate the public on the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia.
Health workers turned up in Monrovia's Clara Town
district to remove two bodies of possible victims of the Ebola
virus, four days after they dropped dead there when nobody
would take them to hospital.
At a swampy field elsewhere in the Liberian capital, the
health ministry ordered 100 graves to be dug for victims of
the deadly tropical virus, but only five shallow holes partly
filled with water had been prepared by Saturday evening
Monrovia's overcrowded and understaffed Elwa Hospital has had
to turn away Ebola cases this week, a scenario exacerbated by
the withdrawal of some international staff following the
infection of two U.S. health workers here.
One of them has arrived for treatment in the United States
and the second is due to follow on an overnight flight on
Strong resistance like this from workers too afraid to handle
infected corpses or communities opposed to burying them
nearby has slowed down stretched West African governments as
they seek to control the worst Ebola outbreak in history.
The Ebola virus has killed 227 people so far in Liberia and
at least 826 people in the region, according to the World
Nema Red, a resident of Clara Town, said the two men who lay
dead in the street for days had shown symptoms of Ebola such
as bleeding and vomiting.
"They started seeking help from the community to take them to
the hospital, but community members ran for their lives ...
they both gave up and dropped dead on the ground in the
streets of Clara Town," she said, saying they lay there four
Information Minister Lewis Brown confirmed the bodies had
been collected but said they had only been there for a few
hours. "They have been removed," he said, adding their houses
would be fumigated and relatives placed under surveillance.
Ebola, which is fatal in more than half of cases in the
current outbreak, is transmitted by direct contact with the
blood or fluids of the infected, including the dead.
Monrovia's first burial site for 30 bodies, in the poor
township of Johnsonville, was abandoned by health workers
after the land owner refused to sell the land to bury Ebola
A few of the corpses were left floating in body bags in pools
of water, which led to complaints from the residents.
A local man, Bill Marshall, said residents had not been
consulted before the cemetery was created. "Ebola, we don't
know where it came from and we don't know its effect," he
said. "The grave will give us Ebola, it will kill us."
At a second site, an angry crowd gathered, shouting at health
workers dressed in white protective suits who sought to
appease them by handing out Ebola information flyers.
"You will have to kill us first," shouted one group.
Soldiers from the Liberian army with shields and bulletproof
vests arrived on the scene shortly afterwards. A source in
the health ministry said the bodies were finally buried
overnight with the help of around 40 additional workers.
The government says that high levels of mistrust and
resistance from local communities justifies a series of
strict new measures designed to control the outbreak.
Liberia plans to close schools and consider quarantining some
communities as part of an action plan outlined this week by
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
In a crisis meeting on Sunday attended by the president,
officials decided that the names of those in contact with
suspected Ebola cases would be shared with airport and
security authorities to restrict their movements.
Brown added that the government had decided to enforce
mandatory cremations to limit contact with the dead and to
avoid contamination of water sources.
"The Johnsonville burial did not go that well," said Brown.
"From now on, victims will be cremated."