Kenya: Concern as Covid-19 Accelerates Mombasa Cemeteries Fill-Up

18 November 2020

Mombasa county is staring at a crisis due to lack of burial space. Last weekend, local authorities warned that public graveyards are almost full due to coronavirus-related deaths.

Governor Hassan Joho cited Kiziwi, one of the largest cemeteries in the county, which has only 20 slots remaining.

Mr Joho decried the surge in the virus deaths as he urged residents to adhere to Covid-19 protocols to protect their lives and those of their neighbours, relatives and friends.

He said statistics from hospitals indicate that there has been an increase in moderate and severe coronavirus cases at the port city. He warned residents against dropping their guard.

"We have been very close to people who are positive but, because we never let our guard down, we are okay. People are succumbing to the virus. I beg you, adhere to the protocols. Covid-19 is real. It is killing people. If we are not careful, we will bury many people," he said on Saturday during the burial of nominated ward representative Mohammed Hatimy who succumbed to the virus.

Kikowani Muslim Cemetery vice-chairman Captain Twalib Khamis urged the residents to adhere to the protocols, saying the graveyard is also almost full. Kikowani is the largest Muslim cemetery in Mombasa.

"For the past few weeks, we have witnessed many deaths. People are being buried at this cemetery and, if this trend continues, the graveyard will be full and we will have no space to bury our loved ones," he warned.

Most Mombasa residents continue to disregard the Covid-19 containment protocols like wearing face masks, washing hands, sanitising and ensuring social distancing.

Meanwhile, anxiety has gripped Muslim religious leaders and doctors in the county following the spike in Covid-19 deaths among its faithful.

The doctors and Muslim religious leaders have launched a massive campaign to sensitise locals on the importance of adhering to health protocols.

The campaign, led by doctors, is meant to debunk the false claim and myth that Covid-19 is not real. They said Muslims have been adversely affected by the disease as the majority continue to disregard health protocols as they hug, shake hands and throng weddings.

Mombasa has more than 100 deaths and over 4,000 coronavirus cases.

Ban weddings

The religious leaders and doctors want the government to ban weddings, saying the ceremony has become a weak link in the spread of the virus among the faithful.

"There is a family of three doctors who live in the same home but they are scared they might infect their relatives. To minimise the threat, they have separated areas where their elderly relatives live. Thank God their system is working but it's because they have resources," Dr Ramadhan Marjan said.

He urged parents to talk to their children about the pandemic and how to protect themselves.

Dr Laila Seif warned the residents that the disease is now within the community level hence they should strictly adhere to the health protocols.

"Let us be open-minded. At first, when the pandemic hit Kenya, people thought it was not real; that it was a disease only found in Europe and would not affect us. Others claimed that due to the high temperatures in Mombasa, the virus would not survive (here)," said Dr Seif.

Financial toll

The medic said the disease is taking a financial toll on families.

"Those who are rich will afford big hospitals. The poor will go to public facilities while the middle class within our community will need at least Sh250,000 to be admitted in their middle-class hospitals," warned the doctor while urging those with symptoms to seek medical attention.

He also cautioned that stigmatisation was making those infected not to seek medical attention.

Sparki Mosque Iman, Sheikh Abu Hamza, said deaths could be averted if every resident took their responsibility diligently. He warned of more deaths if the residents continue to disregard health protocols.

"Let us be honest, there is a lot of contempt and a know-it-all (attitude) in our community. People are saying they don't believe the disease is real because nobody has died in their family. But the day somebody succumbs is when they will believe it. This is so wrong. Either we maintain discipline and save our community or do as we want and perish," warned the religious leader.

Sheikh Hamza said some people are succumbing to the disease because they were infected by their relatives who refused to adhere to the protocols.

Mombasa county Muslim Covid-19 committee chairman Rajab Ramadhan urged the faithful to avoid weddings and burial gatherings.

They further warned the youth against visiting their elderly parents to avoid infecting them with the virus.

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