|Handbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)|
|17. Environmental sanitation|
· Suitable arrangements for disposal of the dead are required from the start of an emergency;
· Action should be co-ordinated with the national authorities;
· Burial is the simplest and best method where acceptable and physically possible. Arrangements should be made to allow traditional rituals;
· Before burial or cremation, bodies must be identified and the identifications recorded.
82. Suitable arrangements for the disposal of the dead are required from the start of a refugee emergency. The mortality rate may well be higher than under "normal" conditions. The authorities should be contacted from the outset to ensure compliance with national procedures, and for assistance as necessary.
83. Dead bodies present a negligible health risk unless the cause of death was typhus or plague (when they may be infested with infected lice or fleas) or cholera. Funerals for persons dying from cholera should be held quickly, near the place of death. Efforts should always be made to restrict funeral gatherings of persons dying from any of these three diseases, and to restrict feasting and ritual washing of the dead, by intensive health education or by legislation, as appropriate.
84. Health considerations provide no justification for cremation, for which sufficient fuel may often not be available. Whenever possible, the customary method of disposal should be used, and the traditional practices and ritual should be allowed. Material needs, for example for shrouds, should be met. The necessary space for burial will need to be taken into account at the site planning stage, particularly in crowded conditions.
85. Before burial or cremation, bodies must be identified and the identification recorded, and, if possible, cause of death recorded. This is particularly important for the control, registration and tracing of disease. If the whereabouts of relatives are known, the most immediate relation should be notified; and steps must be taken to assure the care of minors who, as the result of a death, are left without an adult to look after them.
86. When handling corpses workers should protect themselves with gloves, face masks, boots and overalls. The workers should wash thoroughly with soap and water afterwards. Although the HIV virus cannot survive for long in a dead body, care should be taken with bodily fluids.