the prisoners in Lubumbashi, “neglected” by the response to Covid-19

In the DRC where 8,534 pollution where 196 deaths were recorded on 21 July 2020, associations regularly organize campaigns to educate populations about wearing masks and respect barrier gestures to counter the spread of Covid-19. In Lubumbashi, Haut-Katanga province, on July 6, the NGO’s Universal Action for the Defense of Human Rights (AUDH) launched a campaign to distribute masks to prisoners in Kasapa Prison.In the Democratic Republic of Congo, prisons are overcrowded. According to Human Rights Watch, the organization for human rights, they have one average overcapacity of 432%. Prisoners are therefore very exposed to the coronavirus.

They are also ill-equipped for the Covid-19 pandemic. In Lubumbashi, Haut-Katanga province, Bénis Lubula Mwamba, chair of the NGO’s Universal Action for the Defense of Human Rights (AUDH), organized an awareness and distribution campaign on 6 July. virus protection equipment in Kasapa prison. He tells:

Kasapa Prison is the largest prison in Haut-Katanga. It was built during the colonial years with a capacity of 850 prisoners. But it holds more than 2,500 prisoners, three times its actual capacity. Prisoners are therefore very exposed to the virus. Especially when there are outdoor visitors who come to take them food. With the agreement of the police, we have distributed over 800 cloth masks to prisoners and staff working in the prison. We also shared 50 hand wash kits and liquid soap. First to women and children, then to adult men’s cells and also to the prison’s health center.

In prison we noticed that no one was wearing a mask. Neither the prisoners nor the prison staff. Those prisoners did not even become aware of the risks of Covid-19. They did not know about anything. Therefore, we took the time to explain the importance of protective equipment.“We therefore insisted a lot on the importance of wearing masks all the time”

It is difficult to observe social distance measures due to the large number of prisoners in the cells. Therefore, great importance is attached to the importance of wearing masks at all times. These are fabric masks that can be washed and reused.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the fight against Covid-19 does not take prisoners into account. We’m sorry about that. They are neglected. Yet they also have the right to life, protection and health on the same grounds as other citizens.

By the end of April, 43 prisoners had tested positive in the N’dolo military prison in Kinshasa, which has nearly 2,000 prisoners. According to Health Minister Eteni Longondo, the virus had entered the prison “by a lady who came to release food.” But according to the NGO, no case of coronavirus contamination has yet been registered in Lubumbashi’s central prison. From July 20, Haut-Katanga Province has 260 confirmed cases, according to online media actualite.cd.

To support the non-governmental organization Universal Action for Defense of Human Rights (AUDH), please contact: +243824331991

Article written by Hermann Boko