17 prisoners die due to starvation in DR Congo

Ama Nunoo Jan 10, 2020 at 11:30am

January 10, 2020 at 11:30 am | News

Ama Nunoo

Ama Nunoo | Staff Writer

January 10, 2020 at 11:30 am | News

Photo: BBC/AFP

Democratic Republic of Congo is facing one of the worst humanitarian crises this year, according to the International Rescue Committee.

The structures in the country are not conducive for the free man let alone those in prison. At least 17 prisoners have been reported dead over the past week in one of DRC’s biggest prisons, a charity says.

The causes of death, according to aid workers, were due to lack of food, medicine and poor hygiene.

The Makala Prison in the country’s capital, Kinshasa has been devoid of food supplies in the last two months, state officials confirmed.

“It’s terrible! People are dying almost every day,” a prison official, who did not want to be named, told the BBC.

In Africa, when someone is incarcerated, it is deemed a disgrace and most inmates are abandoned by families once they are behind bars.

Nonetheless, over 8,000 prisoners must rely on their families to bring them meals since there are food shortages.

To worsen their plight, the prisons are heavily overcrowded, and reports say the current inmates are five times the number the facility was built for.

The living conditions for these inmates are so terrible that aid workers and other non-governmental groups reckon at least 100 prisoners are severely ill and on the verge of death.

The legal system in DR Congo is not at its best and most of the prisoners are trapped in the legal system where cases can drag on for years. Only 6% of the prisoners have had their cases heard and are serving prison terms.

According to a DR Congo deputy minister, Makala Prison has received funding from some donors to help improve the living conditions of the prisoners.

“It’s true, there was a delay in paying suppliers and this explains the break in supplies,” Celestin Tunda Ya Kasende told AFP, adding, “the situation was put to rights” on Monday.

However, BBC reports that human rights organisations remain skeptical about the minister’s optimism regarding the inflow of funds to refurbish the prisons.

Forty inmates died in similar circumstances last year in another prison in DR Congo over an 18-month period.

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