, MONROVIA, Aug 4 – Liberians blocked major roads across the capital of the Ebola-hit west African nation on Monday to protest against dead bodies being left for days in houses and abandoned in the streets.
The impoverished country, along with neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone, is struggling to contain an epidemic that has infected 1,440 people and left 826 dead across the region since the start of the year.
“No cars are allowed to pass on this road until the government can come and get the bodies that have been lying in the houses for four days now,” protester Kamara Fofana, 56, told AFP in the western Monrovia suburb of Douala.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced last week the closure of schools and placement of “non-essential” government workers on 30 days’ leave in a bid to halt the epidemic, which has killed 227 people in Liberia.
Ministers have warned against touching the dead or anyone ill with Ebola-like symptoms, which include fever, vomiting, severe headaches and muscular pain and, in the final stages, profuse bleeding.
“Four people died in this community. Because the government says that we should not touch bodies, no one has gone to bury them. We have been calling the ministry of health hotline to no avail,” Fofana added.
Liberians have been advised to call the emergency number to ask for the removal of the dead while soldiers on the streets are keeping areas clear of corpses.
But many have complained that overstretched health workers have been leaving bodies in the streets and in homes for days.
“Our mother was vomiting. We tried to call the ministry of health but we did not see anyone,” Miatta Myers, who lives in central Monrovia, told AFP.
“For five days now her body has been in the house. The only way we can get the attention of the government is to block the road. This is what we are doing.”
Road blocks first sprung up across major routes over the weekend, and have appeared in several neighbourhoods of Monrovia, according to an AFP reporter in the capital.
Deputy health minister Tolbert Nyensuah said the government was doing its best to collect bodies as quickly as possible.
“We buried 30 people during the weekend in a mass grave outside the city. The government has purchased land from a private citizen and that land will be used to bury bodies,” he said.