Indonesia: race against the virus in the cemetery

Indonésie: course contre le virus au cimetière

Indonésie: course contre le virus au cimetière

Indonesia has expected the month of march to announce the first event of the contamination and the number of tests per capita is the lowest in the world.

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22 may 2020 22: 40

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Indonesia: race against the virus in the cemetery

Haeril Halim

AFP – Agence France-Presse

JAKARTA — “Hurry up”, yelled the gravedigger Junaidi Hakim, by encouraging his colleagues exhausted to keep up the pace so that the ambulances continue to bring new bodies in a cemetery in Jakarta dedicated to the victims of the coronavirus.

The team stops to dig graves fresh in the red earth and begins to bury quickly in the coffins. She strives to complete the operation in less than ten minutes to reduce the risk of getting herself infected.

“The time that is most stressful is when we unload a coffin because we need to touch,” explains Hakim, a father of four children, 42 years of age. “We are all relieved when it is buried”.

Indonésie: course contre le virus au cimetière

The gravedigger Junaidi Hakim

Photos AFP, Adek Berry

Some 50 gravediggers work tirelessly in the cemetery of Pondok Ranggon, one of the two sites reserved for the victims of the COVID-19 in the indonesian capital, up to 15 hours per day, seven days per week, for a monthly salary of 4.2 million rupees (400 $).

Each day they dig at least twenty new graves marked only by white sticks that indicate the name, date of birth of the deceased and date of death.

But they are struggling to cope with the influx of bodies : those whose death was attributed for certain to the coronavirus, as well as to the victims suspected to have died from the disease.

“Ambulances don’t stop bring the body,” explains Hakim.

No time to say goodbye

A race against the clock is made even more difficult by the tropical heat and the presence of loved ones.

The families received the order to move fast, and often do not have the opportunity to pray for goodbye.

“I am heartbroken to see these families crying,” said Minar, 50 years old, who like many Indonesians has only one name.

Indonésie: course contre le virus au cimetière

Some 50 gravediggers work tirelessly in the cemetery of Pondok Ranggon, one of the two sites reserved for the victims of the COVID-19 in the indonesian capital, up to 15 hours per day, seven days per week, for a monthly salary of 4.2 million rupees (400 $).

“It’s been 33 years that I dig tombs, and I’ve never been so tired. This is probably a test sent by God,” he observes. The month of ramadan, during which a large part of the Indonesian people fast and refrain from drinking during the day in this country, which has the largest muslim population in the world, makes this work even more difficult.

Naman Suherman explains that it gets to resist the thirst, thinking it makes a task “noble” in the service of the victims of the epidemic buried in tombs of bare ground decorated with a few flowers.

“My faith in my work is reinforced by the fact that I help the deceased to find rest,” says the 55-year-old.

Difficult to know how many victims the virus has made in the archipelago of South-East Asia of more than 260 million inhabitants.

Indonesia has expected the month of march to announce the first event of the contamination and the number of tests per capita is the lowest in the world.

The authorities say they have registered more than 1200 deaths officially attributed to the COVID-19.

Indonésie: course contre le virus au cimetière

Each day the gravediggers dig up at least twenty new graves marked only by white sticks that indicate the name, date of birth of the deceased and date of death.

But only in the megalopolis of Jakarta, at least 2107 people have been buried following the protocol reserved for victims suspected to have succumbed to the virus, nearly double that of the national balance sheet.

Other cities show a number of funerals increased significantly.

And according to the database participatory KawalCovid-19, created by health professionals, there has been over 3000 deaths from the virus, if one takes into account that 16 of the 34 provinces of the country.

Distrust of neighbors

The gravediggers of Pondok Ranggon have seen their work load to jump suddenly.

But in the beginning, most of them were not aware of the risks

“Initially, none of us had ever heard of the coronavirus,” says Minar.

Indonésie: course contre le virus au cimetière

The indonesian authorities say they have registered more than 1200 deaths officially attributed to the COVID-19.

“We didn’t know what was this disease before they learn on tv that it was contagious.”

“The next day, I rushed, and I bought my own mask. And that is only several days later that we received protective equipment”.

Despite these precautions, Hakim explains that his neighbours became suspicious.

“Even if they do not say it out loud, I can see that they keep their distance”. “As if they were afraid of me.”

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