Global Communities Opens New Burial Site for Ebola Victims Near Monrovia

Global Communities Opens New Burial Site for Ebola Victims Near Monrovia 

New Burial Site Eliminates the Need for Unpopular Cremations in the Capital City

Disco HillSilver Spring, MD – Global Communities announced today that a burial site has been opened in Margibi County, ensuring that bodies from Monrovia and the surrounding counties are being buried safely and respectfully. The cemetery is a welcome addition to the region since many Liberians are culturally opposed to cremation and were not informing dead body management teams about the death of loved ones or seeking treatment.

Global Communities, in partnership with the USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and the Government of Liberia (GoL) secured land for the site less than an hour from Monrovia, near the Disco Hill community along the Roberts International Airport highway. The site includes Muslim and Christian sections, a temporary morgue, administration structures, sufficient areas for parking and an isolated disinfection area. Since President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf officially opened the cemetery December 23, more than 70 people have been buried there, and eventually the 25-acre site will have the capacity to accommodate 13,000 individual plots.

The cemetery will help prevent and reduce unsafe burial practices incurred by opposition to cremation, thereby curbing the spread of Ebola. Another barrier to releasing a body was that, once taken, friends and family were unable to visit a grave site, an important ritual in Liberian culture, so the burial ground includes a safe area for mourners to gather. While Global Communities is managing the site and continuing construction during this initial phase, when construction is complete and the virus is under control, management will be fully transitioned to the Government of Liberia. 

“Because this cemetery is so very important to the people in and around Monrovia, while Global Communities manages Disco Hill our teams are providing burial at no cost to individuals who want to lay their loved ones to rest here,” says Piet deVries, Global Communities Liberia Country Director. “During this tragic time, people will be able to pay their respects according to their beliefs safely and without infecting others.”

There are presently four burial teams and four disinfection teams working at the burial ground. They manage all aspects of dead body management, and are trained in the same World Health Organization methodology and standards as other burial teams around the country. More broadly, in partnership with the Liberian government, Global Communities is managing a 57 burial teams across Liberia.

The burial ground builds on Global Communities’ work since the outbreak in close partnership with tribal elders and other community leaders to ensure that burial teams are responsive to cultural and social norms. The work that helped pave the way for this outreach was Global Communities’ partnership with USAID and Liberia’s County Health Teams that coordinated Liberia’s Community-Led Total Sanitation program since 2010. Global Communities has been active in Liberia since 2004, implementing development programs focused on peacebuilding, community engagement, economic development, municipal services, youth reintegration, and water and sanitation.

With the rapid rise of Ebola rates this past summer, those teams became responsible for burial teams. Global Communities also brought on expert trainers to ensure that the burial teams are performing well and reducing the risk of spread. Not one burial team member supported by Global Communities has contracted Ebola.

Read about the opening of the burial ground.

Read a photographic essay about safe burials at the site.

Read about Global Communities Ebola outreach.