Zimbabwean grave-diggers overwhelmed with Covid burials

TOPSHOT - Cemetery workers bury the coffin of a woman in an area of the San Rafael municipal pantheon designated for victims of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua State, Mexico, on May 17, 2020. - Local authorities prohibit families of COVID-19 victims from entering the municipal pantheon, so cemetery workers bury the deceased with no relatives present. (Photo by Herika MARTINEZ / AFP) (Photo by HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Zimbabwe’s gravediggers are struggling to cope with the high number of people who are dying of COVID-19 as the country grapples with a deadlier second wave of the pandemic.

Thomas Rasauka (not his real name), a gravedigger in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, told Al Jazeera that since New Year’s Day he has had very little rest.

Rasauka, who has been in the gravedigging profession for 12 years, said they are digging 10 to 12 graves daily now and that the past few weeks have been the most tiresome and busiest periods since he became a gravedigger.

Rasauka works with seven colleagues at Warren Hills Cemetery, one of the oldest graveyards west of Harare.

He said:People are dying in numbers because of COVID-19. Three out of five burials here are COVID-19.

Meanwhile, City of Harare spokesperson Innocent Ruwende told Al Jazeera that burials at their two council-owned graveyards, Warren Hills and Granville, have increased in recent weeks. He said:

As of last year, we were burying 18 people [daily] but the numbers have increased in recent weeks. As of last week, we were burying around 45 people on average daily at our graveyards.

Prince Mupamombe, a 28-year-old flower vendor at Warren Hills Cemetery, said there has been increased traffic into the graveyard in the new year. He told Al Jazeera:

We have seen a number of COVID-19 funerals come and go. Every day we see them come in and bury the dead

We can tell from the PPE clothing they wear. Last year, we would see only two to three funeral processions daily.

More: Al Jazeera