United Nations – A new WHO protocol for safe and dignified burial of people who die from Ebola virus disease emphasizes inclusion of family members and encouraging religious rites as an essential part of safe burials.
Ebola infections occur during burials when family and community members perform religious rites that require directly touching or washing the body, which still contains high levels of Ebola virus; and when family members distribute personal property of the loved one, which may be infected with the virus.
Developed by an interdisciplinary team at WHO, in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and faith-based organizations including World Council of Churches, Islamic Relief, Caritas International and World Vision, this updated protocol outlines step-by-step processes for safe and dignified burials. The protocol encourages inclusion of family and local clergy in the planning and preparation of the burial, as well as at the burial event itself, giving specific instructions for Muslim and Christian burials.
A team of medical anthropologists also contributed meaningful, safe alternatives for touching and bathing dead bodies, developed from research into the cultural significance and values of burial practices in affected countries. The research included consultations with religious leaders in affected countries to define what is meant by “dignified burial” in both the Muslim and Christian context.