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Unclaimed bodies pile up… as police, health authorities devise solutions

2021-06-21  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

Unclaimed bodies pile up… as police, health authorities devise solutions
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A total of 89 bodies are yet to be claimed at police mortuaries countrywide. 

The head of the Namibian Police’s Forensic Science Institute (NPFSI), Commissioner Nelius Becker has confirmed that these bodies are spread in 13 police mortuaries across the country.

He said in the past when the bodies of unidentified or unclaimed persons were buried by the state, the costs involved were borne by the local authority of the district in which the dead body was found.

However, the Act was repealed by new legislation, which is silent on this aspect. 

Becker said the Namibian police have, however, requested the City of Windhoek in particular to assist with such burials. 

“We are confident that the City of Windhoek will accommodate Nampol in this regard as they used to do in the past. Given the increase in Covid-19-related deaths, the storing space taken up by unclaimed bodies results in increasing the storage problem currently being faced,” he continued.

He said the police and hospitals share the same facilities, and attempts are being made to cater for storage space in freezers whilst preventing the further spread of the virus. 

Becker added that the health and safety and security ministries are in conversation at executive level in order to come up with a national storage solution to ensure that staff working at these facilities are not unduly exposed to potential bio-hazards. 

“Care must also be taken to ensure that the contamination of non-Covid remains do not take place. The health ministry was advised to manage the burial process (which is regulated under the regulations, and which should happen within a set time period of seven days) optimally,” he observed.

In addition, a deceased person’s remains also need to be treated with the necessary dignity and respect it deserves.

“We trust that a permanent solution will be reached soon.”

Explaining the process of identifying unclaimed bodies, Becker said normally the fingerprints of the deceased are taken in order to conduct a search on the home affairs and police databases. 

“If a record is found, the addresses available or those of relatives will be visited in order to trace the next of kin. If no record is available, a photograph is normally taken of the face of the deceased, along with a description, and circulated to the media in an attempt to identify the person or get information,” he continued. 

If this fails, the alternative is to handle the person as unidentified and unclaimed, and to arrange for a burial.

- ktjitemisa@nepc.com.na


2021-06-21  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

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