A dispute over pay has seen burial teams dump bodies of Ebola victims in the street in eastern Sierra Leone. At least a dozen corpses were left outside a public hospital.
Burial workers in the eastern Sierra Leone city of Kenema were fired on Tuesday after taking Ebola victims from a mortuary and dumping the bodies outside a hospital.
The workers were angry over non-payment of their weekly hazard allowance and had been striking. It's understood they took between 12 and 15 bodies, three of those placed at the hospital's entrance to stop people from entering.
Other bodies were left outside the offices of hospital managers.
The striking workers say they have not been paid their allowance for seven weeks. But a spokesman for the National Ebola Response Center said the central government had paid the money to the regional health team - a possibility being that it had not been passed on to the workers.
"Somebody somewhere needs to be investigated [to find out] where these monies have been going," spokesman Sidi Yahya Tunis told news agency Reuters. It's understood the government has launched an investigation over the missing funds.
The striking members of the Ebola burial team were sacked. The risk of infection from Ebola is particularly high with the corpse of someone who has recently died. The disease is spread through contact with bodily fluids.
"I am disappointed that they displayed the bodies because of the quest for money," said Paul Conteh, head of the center.
"They ignored the dignity and respect for the dead. I am not against them withdrawing their services but this is unacceptable."
Infection rates rising in Sierra Leone, under control elsewhere
Kenema was once one of the epicenters of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, but last week the government announced the city had gone for more than three weeks without new infections.
Tuesday's strike follows similar industrial action two weeks ago at a clinic in Bo, in southern Sierra Leone. Healthcare workers have also gone on strike in Liberia over pay and dangerous conditions.
While the Ebola outbreak appears to be coming under control in Liberia and Guinea, infection rates are rising rapidly in Sierra Leone, where more than 1,200 people have died.
The epidemic has killed around 5,500 people in West Africa this year.
jr/jm (Reuters, AFP)