Global Communities Hands Over Disco Hill Safe Burial Site to Government of Liberia

By Stephen Farshing, Global Communities

Disco Hill HandoverMARGIBI COUNTY, LIBERIA – After more than one year and nearly 3,000 burials conducted, Global Communities formally transferred the management and operations of Disco Hill to the Liberian Ministry of Health on January 19th in a ceremony held at the burial site. In attendance were government representatives, workers of Disco Hill, traditional leaders, USAID and other implementing partners.

Following the culturally taboo cremation policy that was instituted in response to the rising number of Ebola-related deaths in 2014, Global Communities worked closely with the Ministry of Health and Chiefs of Liberia to identify land to be developed a place for the people of Montserrado County to see their loved ones buried safely and with dignity.

Matt WardMatt Ward, Global Communities’ Site Manager of Disco Hill, addressed the audience: “None of what we achieved here could have been done without the people I see here today; the people who have been digging holes, who have been clearing land, who have been carrying bodies and who have been cooking. You have made this place what it is. We have stopped cremation in Liberia during the Ebola crisis and the work we have done is incredible. Every one of you should be as proud as I am.”

Since the opening of the cemetery in late December 2014, Global Communities has provided jobs, through the OFDA-funded ALERT program, for hundreds of Liberians who stepped up to the challenge to serve their country during the Ebola crisis. Now that Liberia has been declared Ebola-free for the third time, the government will take full responsibility for the site moving forward, making it a national cemetery.

Disco Hill Handover“As long as Liberia lives, this cemetery will live,” said Director of Environmental and Occupational Health Deawohn Yeabah. “This place brought great relief to the people and government of Liberia. You all saved lives and provided a memorable service for families who lost during the crisis. I want you all to know that the government is prepared; be assured that this place will remain open and operational.” 

Moving out of the emergency stage, Liberia is now focusing on improving preparedness and response structures for diseases of public health concern. “This would not have been possible without the community members here, the Traditional Council and the Disco Hill Workers Union,” said Josh Balser, Global Communities’ Country Director.

Now the challenge of sustainably utilizing the site as either a burial site, a medical waste disposal facility or both lies with the government. “This has been a team effort from the beginning,” said Balser. “As a team, we all stopped cremation even though our job may have not been the most glamorous. I am proud of the work that Matt [Ward] and his team have done and I am proud to pass this place on to our partners in the government.”