News & events


03 August 2020

South Africa: Funeral Practices and Cultural Dignity in the Time of Covid

People were expected to go from one end of the spectrum to the other; from washing the bodies by hand, dressing them, and holding elaborate ceremonies, to having a corpse in a body bag and no goodbye.’- Fiona McLysaght, Sierra Leone country director for the humanitarian organisation Concern Worldwide during the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone in 2015.

In rural South Africa, funerals are family and community affairs. They are not usually managed by the state, funeral directors, local government officials or hospital staff. They are also not occasions at which one expects to find policemen as agents of law enforcement. Families and religious leaders are normally given relative freedom to bury the dead in dignified ways, according to tradition and religious beliefs. The Covid-19 restrictions do not allow this.

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