Grave diggers and cemetery attendants in Kano might be in great danger as community transmission of COVID-19 increases in the state.
Daily Trust observed that since the spike in death due to a strange sickness hit the state last month, no conscious effort is being made by the state government to protect the people who receive dead bodies at the graveyards for burial despite their risk of contracting the diseases that might have been the cause of the deaths.
Though no formal proclamation has been made linking the deaths with COVID-19, there are speculations however that a sizeable number of them might not be unconnected with coronavirus.
This therefore raises concerns that by relating constantly with corpses at the grave sites, these traditional cemetery attendants could easily get infected with the deadly virus as they carry out their voluntary service to the society without any form of protection.
These fears have been intensified by the secrecy surrounding the burial of those presumed to have been killed by the novel disease.
Daily Trust gathered that since Kano State started counting deaths from coronavirus, the processes for the burial of the victims and even where they are being buried remain unknown to the public, which therefore raises fears that COVID-19 deaths might be among the ones being presented to traditional cemetery attendants for burial.
As at yesterday, 36 people were reportedly killed by the disease in Kano State, and residents alleged that there has been silence regarding the identities of the dead and whether they have been buried or not, describing the secrecy around the deaths as counterproductive to government’s efforts at curbing further spread of the disease among its populace.
Alhaji Sheriff Hadi Kabir, the chairman of Fagge cemetery committee emphasized the need for cemetery attendants to be provided with protective kits.
He said since the cause of the many deaths is yet to be established, cemetery attendants across the metropolis should be given protective equipment and training on how to stay safe in their voluntary service in the face of the current pandemic.
Danbaba Muhammed is one of the oldest cemetery attendants at Kofar Mazugal cemetery.
He said for over forty years he has been working in the graveyard, he has never witnessed a period in which people die in droves as the state had experienced in the last months.
“Though the situation has stabilized but we are still concerned about our safety and wellbeing. Our protection, we believe, is from Allah but there is need for the government to provide us with basic protective materials like common hand gloves, face masks and hand sanitisers because we deal directly with people who die from different causes.”
The cemetery attendants also called on the state government to disinfect the cemeteries from time to time to protect the visitors and other burial teams from contracting any contagious diseases within the graveyards.
The chairman of gravediggers Association, Kofar Mazugal cemetery chapter, Malam Awalu Mohammed had earlier lamented about the welfare of gravediggers and cemetery attendants, alleging neglect by the state government.
He said for over twenty years that he has been working in the graveyard, most of the grave diggers live on handouts from bereaved families or other visitors to the cemeteries.
“We are appealing to the state government to come to our aid, especially within this period of massive deaths because we work from morning till evening. You must know that working like that will not allow you, if you are a businessman, to go to the market to fend for your family.
“People are dying every day and it’s our duty to ensure that they are buried befittingly in accordance with Islamic injunctions. Though some of us have been receiving some stipends from their respective local government areas but N5000 stipend is not sustainable, especially during this Ramadan period.”
Our reporter gathered that even those on N5000 monthly allowances have not been receiving their stipends consistently, and the backlog are never paid.