A Fiasco At The Burial Ground, A Prank At The Shop: Covering Ebola
NPR’s global health correspondent Jason Beaubien tries to keep his cool when traveling abroad. But he may have set a new record for chillness.
En route to Liberia to cover the Ebola outbreak, he flew out of Sierra Leone’s Freetown airport. Like all passengers, he had his body temperature measured by an ear gun thermometer. The reading: 32.8 degrees centigrade (roughly 91 degrees Fahrenheit).
A 95-degree temperature can mark the onset of hypothermia; at 91 degrees amnesia can kick in. But Jason remembers (and has photo proof) of that clearly erroneous temperature reading.
The authorities were not troubled and let him board his flight.
If that was a comedy of errors, in Monrovia, Beaubien found a tragedy of errors when it comes to burying the dead.
There have been over 350 Ebola deaths in Liberia. How are the bodies being handled?
The government is having a really hard time finding places to bury the bodies because nobody wants them in their community.
The government bought this land [for burials] in a quite remote spot. There isn’t even a village that close to it, just some little shacks. But it’s near the settlement of Johnsonville.
The dead body management teams — that’s what they call them — went out there last week to bury these bodies. Basically, the site is a swamp. They had a big backhoe to start digging the graves. But people from the [nearest] community came — they didn’t want the bodies buried there. There was a clash. Then the backhoe got stuck in the mud.
They didn’t finish burying the bodies that night, but they threw the bodies into the graves they’d dug. Overnight, water from the swamp came up and lifted the body bags up, and so the body bags were floating in these graves. And the community was furious.
Photo: The makeshift markers for graves of Ebola victims lie scattered in a burial site located on swampland, some two hours from the capital city of Monrovia. (Jason Beaubien/NPR)