Burial workers in the Sierra Leonean city of Kenema have dumped bodies in public in protest at non-payment of allowances for handling Ebola victims. The workers, who went on strike over the issue, left 15 bodies abandoned at the city’s main hospital. One of the bodies was reportedly left by the hospital manager’s office and two others by the hospital entrance. A BBC reporter in Sierra Leone says the striking workers have now been sacked. The hospital has not commented. Sierra Leone is one of the countries worst affected by this year’s Ebola outbreak, with more than 1,200 deaths.
Burial workers are especially at risk of becoming infected. Kenema is the third largest city in Sierra Leone and the biggest in the east, where the Ebola outbreak first emerged in the country. The burial workers told a BBC reporter they had not been paid agreed extra risk allowances for October and November. The BBC’s Umaru Fofana in Freetown says the bodies have now been taken away but the workers had refused to end their strike. There has been no public comment by the hospital’s management or the Sierra Leonean health ministry.
The burial workers’ industrial action came two weeks after health workers went on strike for similar reasons at a clinic near Bo – the only facility in southern Sierra Leone treating Ebola victims. Ebola has killed more than 5,000 people in West Africa this year, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.