One can barely hear the prayers by the surrounding people as the body of a 31-year-old woman is carried out of her tiny house here in Freetown.
Few dozens of the neighbors, some family members came to watch the body of a woman named Maritau, while been loaded in the ambulance.
At the front of this small crowd stands Maritau’s husband Edward Kamada with their three children. He breaks down and tells us, simply, “I lost my wife.”
The youngest, Five years old boy pulls his shirt over his face to hide his tears.
This is how a funeral looks like in Free Tow which is capital of Sierra Leona and a focal point of the Ebola outbreak.
The dead body of the lady was wrapped twice in medical body bags. Her pallbearers are strangers, wearing biohazard suits and full face masks.
Andella Carew and her sister who are the part of the burial team said “I’m doing it for my country. If I don’t do it, who will?”
The sisters were sure that their personal protection equipment will keep them safe from the virus. But they admit that not everyone shares that confidence.
“My friends have abandoned me, even my boyfriend sacked me,” Fudia Kamara, Andella’s sister, says.
The ambulance already contained two dead bodies that died due to Ebola.
Eight others also died from Ebola in this area, neighbors said.
Her young widower vehemently denies it, “No, not Ebola, not Ebola!” he insists, telling us she had epilepsy and that is what killed her.
Now only a lab test will confirm whether the death reason was ebola or not. It almost doesn’t matter. Just the possibility that it might be Ebola means Maritau’s family will likely be stigmatized in their community, regardless of the result they will get in five days.
A cemetery in Freetown will be the final resting place for Maritau. An earthmover is clearing away garbage in an adjacent dump to make more room for bodies.
On an Estimate 75 bodies are buried here each day. But not all of those have succumbed to Ebola. Virtually everyone who dies in Sierra Leone, regardless of the cause, is supposed to be given a medical funeral. There is simply no other option.
“If they continued to do traditional burials in Sierra Leone, where you wash the body, you touch the body, you kiss the body.
“If it’s a confirmed case well, there could be 10 more right there,” says Trevor Jessome, a Nova Scotian who oversees these burials and the cemetery for the charity Concern.
A Canadian epidemiologist, Dr. Bruce Aylward who is running the World Health Organization’s response to Ebola, says too many people in Sierra Leone continue to reject the safe burials. “There are still hidden burials or secret burials where people don’t want to believe their loved ones died of Ebola, and they don’t want to hand them over to a stranger to be buried,” he says.
Since October around 4000 are buried in growing cemetery in Free Town. Now someday in future when Ebola will be eradicated from the country, this cemetery will become a memorial to the many thousands of lives it took.