16025023-standardLIBERIA – In an effort to stem Ebola’s spread, Liberia’s government has all but banned burials in favor of cremation. In the dusty shop-front of one of downtown Monrovia’s more desolate side streets, Sam Agyra flips through a fly-specked photo album showing off his custom caskets. Cake-like confections of pale satin, gold detailing and elaborate wooden scrollwork, his coffins have earned him a well-deserved reputation for beautiful work at a cheap price. In good times he was turning out five handcrafted pine coffins a week. Now? He doesn’t even want to talk about it. Instead he just laughs, the hysterical cackle of a man watching his business of 25 years grind to a halt. He hasn’t sold a coffin in two months, ever since the Liberian government declared, in an effort to tackle the Ebola crisis, that all of the country’s dead should be burned and not buried. An Ebola victim is most contagious in the moments and days after death, when unprotected contact with infected bodily fluids carries an extremely high risk of transmission. Liberia’s traditional burial practices, in which mourners bathe, dress and even kiss the corpse, are widely credited with the early explosion of Ebola in the country, where over 2,000 have so far died of the disease. More