Volunteers overcoming cremation stigma in Liberia
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Volunteers overcoming cremation stigma in Liberia

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the latest and most devastating Ebola epidemic produced 11,299 causalities worldwide.  Originally believed to be "containable" to West Africa, the Ebola plague would ultimately spread to countries outside of the African "infected zone" taking lives in the United States, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom.  

At the height of the epidemic, we witnessed many International organizations withdrawing their staff members from these "hot zones." Reuters reports that the World Health Organization (WHO) closed a laboratory in Sierra Leone after a health worker there was infected with Ebola.  Initially, this decision was thought to hamper efforts to boost the global response to the worst-ever outbreak of the disease. The Public Health Agency of Canada spokesman, Sean Upton, said their agency was withdrawing its team from Sierra Leone as three people in their hotel complex were diagnosed with Ebola. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Peace Corps was temporarily removing 340 volunteers working in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea because of the virus's spread. Some officials from Liberia also sought to flee their country in fear of contracting the virus.
Realistically speaking, what are your choices when dealing with an epidemic in your country? Three avenues of action immediately come to mind. 

1. You can stay in your home and do nothing. 
2. Your can be a part of the problem by participating in actions that promote the proliferation of the epidemic. 
3. You can seek to be part of the solution. Many people of Liberia sought to help rid their country of Ebola. Some volunteered to go from home to home, village to village in search of the infected. Some choose to work in Ebola Clinics, and others volunteered to help disposed of deceased bodies infected with the Ebola virus through cremation.

Cremation is the combustion, vaporization and oxidation of previously alive tissue to their basic chemical compounds. In a country where many consider this practice to be Taboo, the Government of Liberia had to mandate cremation as a mandatory practice in the disposal of Ebola infected patients. With only a few crematories in Liberia, at the beginning of the epidemic, the Government had to erect additional crematories and hire staff to manage these facilities.

While the process appears to have produced the desired effect, trying to educate the community on the importance of cremation and overcoming the stigma associated with this procedure, have many volunteers and staff members trying to find their place in the aftermath. The New York Times took a look at these former crematory workers giving them an opportunity to tell their side of the story.

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