Jakarta, Indonesia – On a residential road in Bogor, on the outskirts of the Indonesian capital, another family lost a loved one to COVID-19.
Sitting in front of her father’s body, a young woman cries as she tightens her prayer beads.
“Wake up, please don’t sleep,” she laments, as a funeral crew carefully wraps her body in disinfected plastic.
The sound of mourning is too familiar to Muhammad Jauhar, 32, who is part of the team that helps families in the area.
“We do various jobs in this workforce, drive the ambulance for the dead and prepare many things – including the coffin and the shroud,” he told Al Jazeera.
“I also do preparation for cleaning, packing and transporting the body to the cemetery,” he said.
Jauhar is not a funeral – he actually works in television production as a director. But while Indonesia is struggling with this recent resurgence of COVID-19 deaths, there are too many bereaved families and not enough workers to bury the dead.
In the COVID-19 burial sites, the tombs also work at night to track their workload.
Volunteers like Jauhur are now an essential part of the funeral industry in Indonesia.
“The impact of COVID is huge, the number of deaths in Bogor is really high. That’s what we can do to help families, ”he said.
“We didn’t get paid. We do the work from our heart.”
This month, Indonesia surpassed the number of COVID-19 cases in India and surpassed Brazil in the sign of the highest number of daily deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the world.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Indonesia is more than 73,000.
On Monday, Indonesia reported 1,338 COVID-19 deaths – its highest ever.
But experts have also warned that these figures are probably a discount because country tests for coronavirus are so low.
As overcrowded hospitals are forced to turn away patients, more people die at home in isolation. Many have never even had the good fortune to be treated by a medical professional.
Lapor Covid-19 is an independent group that collects and collects data related to the pandemic.
Ahmad Arif, one of the co-founders of the group, said his research has indicated that the number of deaths is three times the number of the government.
“Most of those who died isolated had problems accessing hospitals. Their situation deteriorated, they tried to go to hospital but they were full, so they died at home,” he said.
“We see that the death of people in self-isolation is an indicator of the collapse of our health services.”
Far from improving the situation – there have been signs that a health crisis is forming even in the more remote provinces of Indonesia.
“Deaths in self-isolation have started to happen outside of Java. Last week, we had data of people dying in Riau, Lampung, East Nusa Tenggara, Kalimantan, and even more, ”Ahmad said.
“This is an indication that cases can no longer be contained by health services.”
In Bogor, only three of the 50 volunteers in the funeral home group are women.
According to religious teachings, only an individual of the same sex should perform the Islamic rite of washing the dead and surrounding the body.
Thirty-seven-year-old Nurhasanah was one of the volunteer women – as the other two women are students, she agreed to do the shift late.
It was supposed to start at 8pm and end at 5am.
But as the deaths in their community grew, their shifts became longer and they sometimes worked for more than 14 hours a day.
“I’m a housewife, I’ve only worked at home before,” Nurhasanah said.
“I don’t really think about it at the moment.” After seeing the condition of these families, I feel in my heart, I want to help them. ”
Over the past week, Nurhasanah has helped prepare the bodies of three to four women each day for burial.
She said she was not always able to bathe her body due to sanitary protocols – so, in some situations, she cleaned her body with disinfectant and said a prayer.
“We do this from the heart, we just want to help. I think about them even after I get home.”