Cost of funerals is a burden for bereaved
In Kinshasa, perhaps just one thing beats the cost of living--and that's the cost of being dead.
Since the start of the year, funerals have become a common sight in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital, the tragic outcome of floods, cholera and political violence.
But for many bereaved, the loss of a loved-one also comes with the dread of the astronomical bill--as much as a year's wages--for saying farewell to them.
The morgue, the wake, the burial, catering for mourners and receiving far-flung relatives... put this lot together, and the bill typically tots up to around $2,500.
By way of comparison, a supermarket employee in Kinshasa earns between $100 and $150 a month, while the average civil service wage is about $200 a month.
The grieving family of Jose Fataki, the humble driver of a motorcycle taxi, has been faced with a heavy burden after he was killed on the sidelines of a protest march on December 31. The dead man's nephew, lawyer Eric Fataki, said relatives raised the equivalent of $620 to pay for the body to be prepared and laid out for mourners in a canvas marquee next to a public hall.
"The state takes a share of $20 for every wake" in a public hall, the manager of a venue in the poor Matete district of Kinshasa said. As hundreds of wakes are held every day in the city of some 10 million people, there are rich rewards for venues that are transformed into temporary funeral parlours.
The bill to pay due respect to the dead starts at the morgue.
For the poorest families, a nightmarish vicious circle begins--they need to pay to keep the body in the morgue while trying to raise enough money for the funeral.
As the clock ticks, many turn in desperation to relatives who live and work in the European diaspora, if there are any.
To have his son embalmed, currently a trendy practice in Kinshasa, a retired official paid a further $50. Then there was his expenditure for new clothes for the body.
Next comes the choice of coffin. The cheapest models sell for about $250, while a luxury casket can cost more than $1,000.
But the bill continues to rise. Transporting the body from the morgue to the funeral parlour and then on to the cemetery can cost anything between $100 and $500. At funerals that draw a large number of mourners, families also rent buses to transport people from the funeral parlour to the cemetery.
During the wake and the days leading up to the burial, sometimes later, the family of the deceased is expected to feed all the guests. "This is the custom," the official said. "They (the guests) also chip in financially."