The COVID 19 crisis has brought to the fore unprecedented burial processes in Kenya. It’s anticipated that as the effect of pandemic ravage on, burials will be conducted under extraneous circumstances. The burial of James Oyugi at night and in a shallow grave has sparked public outcry from Kenyans of all cultural and religious backgrounds. James is said to have succumbed to the Corona Virus.
We are aware that the Ministry of Health has developed regulations on the disposal of victims of Coronavirus. The regulations provide that before the internment of persons who succumb to COVID-19 commences, the family must be informed on burial procedures, accorded an opportunity to express their religious, cultural and personal rites to show respect for the deceased. Further, the guidelines recommend that burials be conducted during the day. The treatment accorded to Coronavirus victims will determine the success of the government and public responses provided so far. If the government discriminate and stigmatise patients then most people will hesitate to come forward and seek help. Additionally, stigma and undignified treatment of persons who succumb to the coronavirus might cause a family to disregard the guidelines developed to bury their deceased in dignity. Let’s draw from the HIV/AIDS response, stigma and discrimination only slowed down prevention and management processes of HIV. In the words of Phillip Guadalla, ‘any stigma will defeat dogma’; let’s allow information and caution a chance over the humiliation of grieving families.
We call on all government actors to uphold human dignity and conduct the burials in ways that respect the place and wishes of the family and one that embraces the family rather than stigmatise them. Most Kenyan cultures position burial ceremonies as the final rite of passage. It is a time to celebrate the life of a loved one, come to terms and grieve a major loss even in a minimalistic manner. Measures to acknowledge the importance of burials during this period will go a long way in strengthening the actions taken so far.
Further, we urge the National and County governments to ensure equal treatment to all persons who succumb to Coronavirus. Most importantly, we urge the government to ensure that the communication on coronavirus while remaining factual, serves to inspire the people Kenya noting that most victims recover as compared to the incidences of death.

 

Nairobi, 14th  April 2020.