Kenyan experts condemn mishandling of Covid-19 victims

By Samuel Ouma

I don’t understand why people are being buried at night, says Allan Maleche, a human rights lawyer and the executive director of the Kenya Legal & Ethical Issues Network on HIV/Aids (KELIN).

The Ministry of Health haS been urged to ensure that those who die of Coronavirus are given decent burial in line with their cultural practices.

Dr Richard Ayah, a health systems and policy expert has challenged the government to stop burying or cremating remains of Covid-19 victims at night saying the dead are entitled to decent burial and their families must have a say on how their loved one should be given the final send off.

“Being buried at night is synonymous with being buried like a thief. Everybody is entitled to a decent burial and families have a right to mourn,” said Dr Richard Ayah.

The same has been echoed by Prof.Lukoye Atwoli,  Associate Professor at Moi University’s School of Medicine and t Vice-President of the Kenya Medical Association.

“Whereas we agree that the deceased should be buried as fast as possible within 48 hours, we shouldn’t engage in a process that increases stigma like rushing to bury people at night,” reiterated Prof. Atwoli.

“I don’t understand why people are being buried at night. They (the Health ministry) keep contradicting themselves. The conflicting regulations go to show how failure to have clear communication continues to promote stigma,” said Allan Maleche, a human rights lawyer and the executive director of the Kenya Legal & Ethical Issues Network on HIV/Aids (KELIN).

Kenyans were angered by how the burial of one of the victims were conducted in Siaya County. According a video clip that went viral on social media, the vehicle carrying the deceased remains arrived at his home in the middle of the night on the fateful day and the health officials who came with the body dug a shallow grave and dumped him in it before leaving.

Two other victims, one from Bomet and the other one from Trans Nzoia were also burried at night in what experts have termed as inhuman. However, Director General of Health Dr. Patrick Amoth said the night burials had been conducted in Counties which have not shown adequate preparation to handle the deadly virus.

The experts have questioned the government’s decision to carry out night burials despite the lack of evidence of persons who have contracted the virus from having exposure to the bodies of Covid-19 victims according to WHO.

“While we appreciate that infection prevention measures should be adhered to, we are asking the ministry to incorporate the expertise of sociologists and come up with proper guidelines that factor in the cultural aspects of our people. For instance, people in western Kenya bury their elderly in the afternoon and children in the morning,” explained Dr Ayah.

The government had directed the victims of the deadly virus to be buried within 48 hours from their death and only 15 people are allowed to attend the burial as measures to combat the spread of the virus. 

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