Protecting the Living - Honouring the Dead

The Ebola Virus Disease hit Sierra Leone in May 2014. By September 2014 the country was experiencing a surge in cases as the disease spread across the whole country. A reported 37 per cent of patients could associate their infection with attending the funeral of an Ebola victim or the traditional practices of preparing and burying the dead. Burial Teams were trained to carry out safe medical burials, but they were soon struggling to respond to all death alerts.

The purpose of this study is to assess the barriers and enablers to community acceptance and implementation of safe burials in Sierra Leone. The Ebola virus continued to spread in Sierra Leone partly because communities were initially resistant to Burial Teams carrying out safe, medical burials. This changed towards the end of 2014 when revised burial procedures were published and renamed the Safe and Dignified Burial Protocol. Confrontations with communities decreased and more requests by communities for the Burial Teams were noted.

The SMART Consortium, consisting of Catholic Relief Service, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development and World Vision as the lead, took over the responsibility for burials in 10 districts across Sierra Leone in November 2014. The Consortium initiated this study to analyse the contribution made by the revised procedures to increased community acceptance of Safe Burials and if there were other factors at play. The results of this study are expected to be used by national and international stakeholders to better respond to future epidemics in Sierra Leone and elsewhere.

This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the British Department for International Development (DfID). However, the contents of the document are the sole responsibility of World Vision in Sierra Leone and their SMART. Consortium partners (Catholic Relief Service and Catholic Agency for Overseas Development ); and can therefore under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of DfID.

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