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General News of Friday, 4 November 2016

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Accra graves to be recycled

In the wake of overcrowding in our public cemeteries and the scarcity of land in Accra for the creation of new ones, the Metro Public Health Department (MPHD) of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) has evolved a plan to recycle graves older than 20 years, to make room for new burials.

The MPHD’s Director, Mr Victor Acquaye, in an interview with The Mirror, said his outfit has plans to open up the western section of the Awudome cemetery for development into a modern well-spaced and landscaped cemetery.

With the current overcrowded state of the public cemeteries, burying the dead in homes and at church compounds would have been thought to be a good idea but Mr Acquaye says though the practice is legal, it must not be encouraged.

He noted that people who die of contagious diseases could pose some danger to others who live in the home as well as to neighbours of the burial site.

According to Mr Acquaye, strict environmental standards must be followed before burials are carried out in locations other than those designated as public cemeteries.

To him, such locations should not be close to private taps and public water sources.

History

Before the arrival of Christianity and Islam, most Africans were said to have buried their dead at home. The practice is still common in many parts of the three northern regions of Ghana.

After the introduction of those two religions which were said to have advocated for the burial of the the dead in designated cemeteries, that practice became the norm across the country.

Recently however, some wealthy families in Accra have shown preference for burying their loved ones at home, partly as a result of the scarcity of space in public burial sites as well as for some cultural beliefs.

Processes

While admitting that it is possible for the MPHD of the AMA to grant permits to some people to bury their dead at homes and at church compounds, Mr Acquaye said such permits could only be granted after written applications and that MPHD Director should be satisfied with a number of conditions.

These include officers of the MPHD going to inspect the place for such burial and ensuring that the land around it is not less than an acre.

“Even after the land factor is satisfied, we have to know the cause of death to ensure the burial does not pose any public health threat to people and the environment,” he pointed out.

Cholera

Mr Acquaye noted that people who die of cholera and related diseases were not permitted to be buried in homes and church compounds.

He said there could be a mass disease outbreak if the remains of people who die of infectious diseases were not properly disposed.

“We don’t even allow families of people who die of cholera to touch the corpses. Such burials are done under strict supervision of the public health department,” he said.

Mr Acquaye took the opportunity to educate the public to be careful of the food they buy in town, need to wash hands well with soap under running water, eat hot food, as well as report quickly to health facilities cases of diarrhoea and vomiting and above all keep surroundings clean.

EPA

Also commenting on the issue, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned people not to burry the dead either at homes, church premises or offices.

The Acting Director of Corporate Affairs of the EPA, Mrs Angelina Ama Tutuah Mensah, noted that people who die of contagious diseases such as Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), Hepatitis B, Tuberculosis (TB) and others, could pose potential health hazards to residents of the area where such people were buried if the bodies were not properly embalmed.

According to her, per the EPA’s records, it was only the Catholic Church which for religious reasons, had the agency’s approval to bury their Bishops in church compounds.

Her outfit, she said, had so far granted permission for only two Bishops to be buried in Catholic Church premises.

“Even with the Catholic Church, as part of their architectural designs, it includes scatacombs which are properly concreted underground cemeteries that ensure there is no leakage or seepage when the person is buried,” she pointed out.

Mrs Mensah urged the public to seek permission from the appropriate authorities before burials were done.