Managing the bodies of Covid-19 victims a challenge
On Sunday evening, a 78-year-old man infected with Covid-19 from Gadhi in Ward 4 of Dasarathchand Municipality died while undergoing treatment at Baitadi District Hospital.
His body was cremated three days later because local people from Danda Santanesh, a neighboring settlement, refused to let the body pass through their village on their way to the cremation site.
“The local population did not allow Nepalese army security personnel to transport the body through the village. The body remained in the hospital for three days, ”said Saraswati Nepali, a women’s rights activist in Dasarathchand.
On Monday, local residents and the deceased’s family contacted the municipal office and the district administrative office to resolve the issue. The municipal office coordinated with the police and local administration to dispose of the body on Tuesday.
A team of Nepalese army soldiers used an alternative means at the cremation site and buried the body.
On May 20, a 25-year-old man infected with Covid-19 from the municipality of Melauli died while undergoing treatment at the district hospital. The hospital coordinated with the Dasarathchand Municipality office to cremate the body on the bank of the Shera River in the municipality.
However, locals prevented funeral directors from reaching the cremation site, citing that the deceased belonged to another local unit.
Representatives of the municipality of Dasarathchand had to ask the local population to allow the Nepalese army team to cremate the body at the riverside overnight.
“It was only after a lot of persuasion from the local authorities that the residents finally authorized the cremation. Melauli’s man was cremated on the night of May 21, ”Nepali said.
Meanwhile, locals say they are opposed to authorities using areas near their settlements as cremation sites for coronavirus victims, as authorities have failed to take appropriate measures for the disposal of the victims’ bodies.
“If a body is to be eliminated, it has to be done right. We see animals congregating at the cremation site in search of food. The same animals enter our villages. We fear that there is an epidemic of other diseases, ”said Uttam Chand, a local resident of Ward No. 10 of Dasarathchand Municipality.
On Thursday, relevant stakeholders held a Covid-19 District Management Committee meeting to find ways to deal with the bodies of Covid-19 victims. Baitadi district chief Rajendra Dev Pandey asked local units to work on the management of the corpses.
“Some of these incidents are due to a lack of understanding. We coordinate with the local units to clear up misunderstandings and allay people’s fear, ”Pandey said.
The mayor of Dasarathchand, Narendra Singh Thapa, said the people’s representatives had made efforts to coordinate with the local population and help the administration deal with the bodies of Covid-19 victims.
So far, 15 people have died from Covid-19 in Baitadi since March last year, according to data from the District Health Office. Currently, there are 491 active cases of Covid-19 in the district, data from the district health office showed.
In Syangja of Gandaki province, handling the bodies of Covid-19 victims has become more difficult in the past two weeks, according to district police.
“Syangja does not have well-run crematoriums. Most of the cremation sites are near human settlements and local people have started to prevent security personnel from disposing of bodies in their areas, ”said Police Commissioner Hobindra Bogati.
A 92-year-old man infected with Covid-19 died at his residence in the rural municipality of Aandhikhola-2, in Syangja, last week. Villagers have stopped his cremation, saying the burning pyre and smoke will spread the coronavirus.
Nepalese police personnel, in coordination with people’s representatives, then buried the body near a community building of a local group of mothers.
Likewise, a 32-year-old woman from the municipality of Putalibazar-10 died of Covid-19 a few days ago. Nepalese army personnel dug a grave on the bank of the Aandhikhola stream in Rangkhola to bury the body. But local people have stood in the way of the burial, saying it will lead to the spread of the coronavirus.
Another elderly woman, 80, from Arjun Chaupari Rural Municipality 8 died from the virus at Syangja District Hospital last week. Local people prevented relatives of the victim from cremating the body near a local stream. Army personnel had to intervene and dispose of the body elsewhere.
“Such incidents are on the increase in Syangja, which is why we are deploying security personnel in large numbers while handling the bodies of Covid-19 victims,” Bogati said. “Bodies buried along rivers and streams could be washed away by flooding, especially since the rainy season is almost here. It is better to cremate the bodies but the local population refuses to let us use the cremation sites for the victims of Covid-19. ”
The Syangja District Hospital says the delay in handling the bodies of Covid-19 victims is causing problems at the hospital.
“The process of managing the body is long. The hospital must notify the district Covid-19 Crisis Management Center of the death of a Covid-19 patient. Then the center writes to the Nepalese army, urging them to deal with the body, ”said Dr Ramesh Acharya, head of the district hospital.
“We have to keep the bodies in the hospital for hours and sometimes days if the local population obstructs the cremation,” Acharya said. “The hospital does not have a mortuary and we cannot keep the body in the Covid-19 ward with other patients. For now, we are keeping the bodies in a tent erected just outside the hospital building, ”he said.