Mon, 02 Oct 2023

Health Groups Warn Against Quick Mass Burials in Libya

Voice of America
15 Sep 2023, 23:05 GMT+10

Three international health organizations are warning against the rushed, mass burials of bodies in Libya following this week's catastrophic flooding.

The World Health Organization (WHO), the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) say dead bodies, while distressing to look at, pose little or no threat to public health.

'Amid devastating loss of life due to disasters and conflict, there is often unfounded fear and misunderstanding concerning the dead,' according to the statement. 'The bodies of people who have died following wounds sustained in a natural disaster or armed conflict almost never pose a health danger to communities.'

The urge to bury the dead in catastrophes quickly is based on the assumptions that dead bodies spread disease and can contaminate drinking water.

While dead bodies should never be left near water supplies, the statement said, 'the belief that dead bodies will cause epidemics is not supported by evidence. . . Those who survive an event like a natural disaster are more likely to spread disease than dead bodies.'

In Photos: City of Derna in Libya Devastated by Massive Flooding In Photos: City of Derna in Libya Devastated by Massive Flooding Photo Gallery:

In Photos: City of Derna in Libya Devastated by Massive Flooding

The only time dead bodies pose a health risk of epidemics is when the deaths resulted from infectious diseases or when a natural disaster occurs in an area where infectious diseases are endemic, the health organizations said.

The groups said they have teams in Libya to help local authorities with guidance, materials and training in burying the dead.

The groups said they recognize that the presence of dead bodies can be stressful, resulting in a push for mass burials.

But, 'this approach can be detrimental to the population,' the groups said, and can often have legal and emotional ramifications.

Instead, well-managed burials should include easily traceable and properly documented individual graves in demarcated burial sites. They should also include the exact location of each dead body, as well as the associated information and personal belongings.

'An unnecessary rush to dispose of bodies of those killed in disasters or conflict deprives families of the opportunity to identify and mourn their loved ones, while providing no public health benefit,' said Gwen Eamer, IFRC's senior officer for public health in emergencies and head of emergency operations for the recent Morocco Earthquake Response.

'Dignified treatment of the dead requires appropriate time to identify the deceased and mourn and perform funeral rites in accordance with local cultural and social norms,' she said.

More Morocco News

Access More

Sign up for Morocco News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!