'Our tiredness is worth it': Volunteers in full PPE 16 hours everyday managing Covid-19 dead
Published on: Saturday, July 24, 2021
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Volunteers from the Amal Valley Organization carrying out their task of burying the Covid-19 dead. (Photo: Amal Valley via FMT)
PETALING JAYA: Toiling under the hot sun for long hours every day while decked in full personal protective equipment — this is among the challenges volunteers from Amal Valley Organization endure in managing the remains of Muslims who lost their lives to Covid-19.

On top of that, they are forced to witness heartbreaking scenes of family members weeping over the departure of their loved ones.

Most times, these relatives are not even allowed to be there for the burial.

The volunteers also face the wrath of residents staying near graveyards who refuse to allow the remains to be buried so close to where they live, out of fear for the virus.

Despite all these challenges and the increasing rate of deaths daily, the NGO continues to offer its services for free.

The cost of managing each body can go up to RM3,000, depending on the logistics and location of the burial grounds.

AVO president Dr Azfar Hussin told FMT that some family members would offer some payment, according to what they could afford.

Azfar, who owns the As-Salam chain of clinics in Selangor, said they started this initiative over a year ago, managing around four to eight Covid-19 deaths a day.

The number has since increased tremendously.

“Now, it’s an average of 20 a day. The highest we’ve had was 57 in one day. At that time, we had to work from 8am to midnight.

“Imagine how tired we were, especially since we had to don the protective gear for our safety at all times.

“But our tiredness was worth it as we managed to fulfil the ‘fardu kifayah’ and trust of donors. What’s most important is that the grief of the family was also alleviated,” Azfar said.

Focused on the Klang Valley, the majority of AVO’s work involves the dead from Hospital Ampang, one of the Covid-19 hospitals in the region.

The NGO has 11 full-time volunteers, whose work is divided in managing the remains at the mortuary and the burial grounds, as well as taking care of the logistics.

“All have been trained for at least six hours before being allowed to manage any remains. If we don’t have enough members, we request help from other NGOs.

“Right now, we use six vehicles, four of which are our own. The other two were lent to us by the Selangor Islamic department and a surau.

“However, the number of vehicles is insufficient now due to the increase in deaths,” he said.

Azfar was thankful that none of the volunteers have contracted Covid-19 so far while on the field, attributing this to the strict compliance with the set SOPs.

Azfar, who was a volunteer doctor at a vaccination centre in Bukit Jalil, also said his wife understood why he was doing this, thankful that he was still able-bodied despite the fatigue.

Members of the public interested in contributing to AVO’s fund may drop a message to FMT’s Helpline at 0193899839.

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