Congo, Drc - PEOPLE in the Ebola-hit eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are struggling to come to terms with high security burials.

Anyone who dies of the highly infectious haemorrhagic fever has to be buried in carefully controlled conditions to minimise the risk of infection from body fluids.

But that means relatives and friends are kept at a distance. For for many, this is traumatic.

“We’re astonished she’s being buried like this,” said Denise Kahambu as she watched the burial in Butembo of her 50-year-old cousin, Marie-Rose.

“They say she died of Ebola,” she said.

First declared last August, the epidemic has now claimed nearly 1 200 lives, with 200 of them in May alone. The outbreak is the second deadliest on record.

The burial in Butembo followed strict precautions.

There was no religious or cultural ceremony.

Half a dozen police officers escorted the convoy and remained on guard throughout.

“The custom is that the body of the dead first returns to the home. And once people have mourned, they have the chance to touch the body for the last time,” said Seros Muyisa Kamathe, a guide and interpreter in Beni and Butembo.

World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “We are not just fighting a virus. We’re fighting insecurity. We’re fighting violence. We’re fighting misinformation and we’re fighting the politicisation of an outbreak.”– REUTERS