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Ebola Burial Teams in Sierra Leone Go On Strike Over Hazard Pay

/ Source: Reuters

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FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Teams in charge of burying the bodies of Ebola victims in two districts of Sierra Leone have gone on strike over the non-payment of their weekly risk allowances, leaders of the group said on Tuesday. Because the Ebola virus is highly infectious and remains active in the corpses of victims, only specialized teams in protective clothing are allowed to remove and dispose of the bodies.

A strike by the burial teams could worsen the outbreak of Ebola in Sierra Leone, which recorded 121 deaths and scores of new infections on a single day last week. "We have decided to stop working until they pay us our weekly risk allowance," Tamba Nyandemoh told Reuters. They have not been paid for two weeks, he said. The teams bury between 17 and 35 bodies daily, according to Nyandemoh. Each team has 12 workers and every member of a team earns about $100 a week. Sierra Leone deputy health minister Madina Rahman said the teams have been paid through the end of September. They are only owed for this week, she said. Rahman did not comment on the demand for risk pay.

Image: Burial team prepares body of Ebola virus victim in Freetown, Sierra Leone
A team wearing protective clothing prepares the body of a person suspected to have died of the Ebola virus for burial in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Sept. 28.Christopher Black / WHO via Reuters, file

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