When disasters and health crises strike, volunteers from organizations like the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other community members are often the first to respond—caring for survivors and managing bodies of the deceased.
An updated edition of Management of Dead Bodies after Disasters: A Field Manual for First Responders has been published today to support the safe and dignified recovery, identification and storage of the remains of people who die during disasters and health crises.
The guidelines were jointly produced by the International Committee of the Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Pan-American Health Organization and the World Health Organization.
This revised second edition incorporates experience gained from recent crises such as the Nepal earthquakes (2015), the 2014-15 West Africa Ebola outbreak and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines (2013). It addresses topics such as burial planning, the safe handling of people who have died from an infectious disease and how to care for survivors and support relatives and friends who have lost a loved one.
“Many Red Cross volunteers who took on the dangerous but critically important task of safe and dignified burials in countries affected by Ebola had first aid training, but nothing would have prepared them for responding to a large-scale Ebola outbreak,” says Panu Saaristo, Emergency Health Team leader with IFRC.
“It’s paramount to provide first responders with practical and easy-to-follow guidelines like this publication that set best practices for care of the deceased in the aftermath of a disaster or epidemic in a manner that is respectful of the persons who lost their lives, their families and the culture, and guidelines that help them plan and carry out burials in a way that is safe for all involved.”