Eleven prisoners have died since the start of the year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, staff and NGO sources said, blaming shortages of drugs and food in the prison.
“We have recorded 11 deaths since January 1. The latest three died yesterday (Monday) because there were no medicines to treat them and their families lacked the resources,” an official at the Makala prison told the AFP news agency on Tuesday, asking not to be named.
“Since last October, the state has disbursed no funds to supply the prison with medicines and food,” he added.
Makala prison is the biggest in the capital, housing nearly 9,000 inmates in a colonial-era facility with an intended maximum capacity of 1,500, according to official figures.
“Makala and almost all prisons around the country are no longer being supplied with food and medicine,” said Emmanuel Cole, head of a DRC NGO active in jails across the vast central African country.
“It’s true, there was a delay in paying suppliers and this explains the break in supplies to Makala,” Justice Minister Celestin Tunda Ya Kasende confirmed to the AFP.
“But the situation was put to right yesterday [Monday]. The figure of around 10 deaths may be understandable. But the doctors also need to tell us if these deaths were caused by the break in drugs or food supplies.”
Cole put Makala’s population at 8,618 inmates, of whom only 500 had been tried and convicted.
Work is underway to renovate at least three wings of the large jail, but the activity has forced the prisoners to live in increasingly cramped and unhealthy conditions.