Concerns emerge as Lusaka death toll rises – 980 deaths in a month

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According to the Lusaka City Council’s burial permit office at University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka, the council has recorded at least 980 deaths in the last one month alone. Brenda Katongola, the council’s assistant Public Relations Manager said in an interview that of the 980 deaths, 164 were transferred outside Lusaka, while 549 burials were conducted within the Council’s established cemeteries, that is, both the new and old Leopard’s Hill cemeteries and Chingwere cemetery in Lusaka. The remaining 296 burials were conducted in other cemeteries within Lusaka not managed by the Council. This data was recorded between April 18th and 8th May 2017.

Did all these deaths occur at UTH?

Despite the headlines trending on social media, sources at the burial permit office confirm that these deaths did not all occur at the University Teaching Hospital but include deaths recorded around the entire Lusaka District. The confusion is most likely due to the fact that the burial permit office which is responsible for the recording of all deaths occurring in Lusaka district is located at UTH. The burial permit office is also responsible for keeping all death records and the issuance of burial permits. According to the Public Health Act CAP 295, a burial permit is required before a burial can be conducted. Click here for more information on the procedure for obtaining a burial permit (LCC website).

What happens to unclaimed bodies?

This news comes soon after the council issued a two-week notice to members of the general public to claim 49 bodies which remain unclaimed at the UTH mortuary. According to the law of Zambia, when any dead body is unclaimed or no competent person undertakes to bury it, it becomes the responsibility thereafter of the magistrate or police to direct the removal and burial of the body within a specified time.

Written by:

Steven Nonde | BSc, Biomedicine

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