KUALA LUMPUR: With the COVID-19 demise toll mounting in Malaysia, a volunteer group led by a non secular instructor has doubled its efforts to help to Muslim households who are sometimes at a loss in navigating well being protocols and a proper burial for their family members.
“What many individuals have no idea is the period of time and work that goes into managing a funeral. At a vital time like this, having the correct contacts may be very mandatory for a easy funeral course of,” mentioned Mr Muhammad Rafieudin Zainal Rasid, who spearheads the Malaysian Funeral Management Squad (SPJM).
“The reality is that people are already devastated and heartbroken from the loss of their loved one. The last thing they want to be doing in that mental state is to call cemeteries to see if they could allow another burial or struggle to keep up with standard operating procedures (SOPs),” he mentioned when interviewed by CNA.
Mr Muhammad began SPJM round 5 years in the past. It has since grown to round 2,000 volunteers nationwide.
He defined that following the demise of a member of the family due to COVID-19, hospitals go solely so far as informing the following of kin. Sometimes, the hospitals will share contact particulars of funeral administration companies.
“With the variety of issues they (hospitals) have to handle, that is comprehensible. Thereafter, the administration of your complete course of is left to the household, and sometimes they’re clueless on what to do subsequent.
“This is where we step in. As soon as a family contacts us for assistance, we begin to do the needful to ensure a proper burial,” he mentioned.
He mentioned that earlier than the present wave of COVID-19 circumstances, SPJM managed up to three burials per day. Now, it takes on greater than 5 circumstances each day.
On Tuesday (Jun 8), Malaysia recorded 5,566 new COVID-19 circumstances and 76 deaths. Cumulatively, there are now 627,652 circumstances nationwide, with 3,536 deaths.
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THE FUNERAL PROCESS
Mr Muhammad mentioned that after a household who has misplaced somebody to COVID-19 contacts his staff for help, they’ll so far as attainable oversee your complete preparation course of, in order enable the household extra space to mourn.
SPJM would accumulate all related information, together with the place of residence and particulars of the deceased. It would additionally make a police report, contact cemeteries within the neighborhood to e book a grave and apply for a grave allow.
The volunteers would additionally go to the hospital, meet with a well being inspector and transport the physique to the cemetery.
“We do not encourage the family to be at the grave given the risks associated with COVID-19, but sometimes upon their insistence, we allow a few healthier men from the family to join,” said the 30-year old.
He said that there have been instances of hiccups when trying to book a grave. He explained that out of around 40 Muslim cemeteries in the Klang Valley, only eight accepted those who died of COVID-19. There are also quotas on how many bodies can be accepted daily.
“If they have maxed out their quota for the day, then the management will not accept the request to bury and we will have to approach other cemeteries. Eventually, if all cemeteries are unable to take the body, we will have to wait another day.”
“Most of those cemeteries have area, that isn’t the difficulty. They have a quota as a result of within the Klang Valley, cemeteries function throughout workplace hours. Although we have now requested for this to be reconsidered in mild of the pandemic, there has not been any modifications,” he mentioned, including that the time restrict solely utilized within the Klang Valley as his volunteers in different states haven’t encountered related conditions.
If the cemeteries in Klang Valley didn’t change their coverage on their timing, there would quickly be a backlog of our bodies within the morgues, he opined.
Muslim burials are often completed inside 24 hours of demise.
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When requested by CNA, the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (JAWI) mentioned there may be adequate area on the 29 Muslim cemeteries in Kuala Lumpur for now.
“From our records, we can say that the space in the cemeteries would last for at least another decade,” mentioned a spokesperson.
Similarly, the Selangor Religious Department additionally mentioned there isn’t a scarcity of area within the state’s Muslim cemeteries.
Back on the SPJM’s headquarters within the Klang Valley, Mr Muhammad mentioned his staff often requires about two to three hours to deal with the burial of every COVID-19 sufferer. Much of their time, nonetheless, is spent on ready for the arrival of the well being inspector and for his approval to launch the physique.
Mr Muhammad mentioned there are 20 individuals overseeing SPJM’s operations with about 4 or 5 volunteers are often deployed to fetch every physique after which accompany it to the cemetery for burial.
“The staff within the physique van can be in full private protecting gear (PPE) all through the journey and as soon as they attain the grave, the relations who’ve been allowed to help (the burial) even have to put on their PPE. All this takes time.”
“The difference between COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 bodies is that we do not conduct the usual washing ritual on the former. Instead, we conduct the ‘tayamum’, a washing ritual involving purified sand, to cleanse the body. And instead of using the usual white cloth to wrap the body, it is wrapped in plastic,” he said.
“Finally, we do a quick prayer and bury the body,” he mentioned, including that this might take not more than half-hour.
Mr Muhammad then mentioned following the burial, the well being inspector would monitor the elimination of the PPE donned by all these concerned and ensure proper sanitisation takes place.
Those who have interaction SPJM solely want to pay what they’ll for the companies. Mr Aizat Mohd Khairuddin, 29, a volunteer with SPJM mentioned: “Although we do have a template on the costing, we do not really stick to it. At the moment we carry out our services with the most minimal costs we possibly can give.”
“We do tell the families the cost at the start, those who can pay do so. As for others who really cannot, we just tell them to give what they can and we serve them in hope of alleviating their pain of losing a loved one,” he added.
“WE ARE TIRED BUT WE REALLY WANT TO HELP”
What drives Mr Muhammad?
He felt that he had to do one thing after he noticed individuals having to borrow cash to perform funeral rites for their relations.
“There are some people who make managing funerals into a business and charge people exorbitantly for their services. When I was younger, I used to help my teacher manage funerals. During that time I saw that many people were forced to borrow money or even take loans.
“That was my turning point, or wake-up call rather, to help as many struggling people while also training as many youths in my community to manage funerals in their own families,” he recounted.
According to Mr Muhammad, SPJM knew it could want to step up, even in the course of the early days of the pandemic.
“I took note of what was happening in other countries … so as the death toll began to overwhelm the system, we stepped in to help.
“I will not lie, it is tiring. Physical exhaustion is one thing, but mental exhaustion of not only organising and managing but watching the families mourn for not being able to send off their loved one, it takes a toll on you, but we keep going” he mentioned.
Similarly, Mr Aizat, who owns a transport enterprise, mentioned his want to assist those that have suffered a loss is greater than the exhaustion.
“We are tired but we really want to help.”
Besides the fatigue, volunteers met opposition from their own families due to the risky nature of managing COVID-19 bodies, he said.
“But we need to do this, because otherwise, those who really cannot afford it (funeral management services), have no one,” he mentioned.