By Our Reporter
18th Sept 2023
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against expedited mass burials for victims of natural disasters, saying bodies from such events rarely pose a health risk.
In the latest statement co-authored by the International Red Cross (ICRC), WHO notes that there’s often unfounded fear and misunderstanding concerning the dead and as a result, communities move quickly to bury bodies such as in mass graves with fears that they pose a health threat.
This approach can be unfavorable to the population, they warn. “…consequences of mismanagement of the dead include long-lasting mental distress for family members as well as social and legal problems.
Well-managed burials include easily traceable and properly documented individual graves in demarcated burial sites.
This should ensure that the exact location of each dead body, as well as the associated information and personal belongings, is known,” the statement reads in part.
Experts say unlike infectious diseases such as cholera or hemorrhagic fevers, bodies of people who die from wounds sustained in a natural disaster or armed conflict do not normally harbor organisms that cause disease.
However, Pierre Guyomarch who heads ICRC’s forensics unit says there is a general belief that dead bodies will cause epidemics but this is not supported by evidence.
Experts however warn that dead bodies near or in water supplies can lead to health concerns, as the bodies may leak feces and contaminate water sources, leading to a risk of diarrheal or other illness.
They advise that bodies should not be left in contact with drinking water sources.