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KIU International Desk: Overcrowded and Unsanitary Prisons in DRC Pose a Great Risk for Spread of COVID-19

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KIU, Main Campus - As of 4th May 2020, health authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reported that the confirmed cases of Coronavirus in a military prison in Kinshasa doubled to nearly 100 in two days.

Prisons often lack basic hygiene products, have minimal health care services and are overcrowded. Therefore, social distancing is nearly impossible except in solitary confinement which poses its own dangers to mental and physical health.

The DRC government’s latest epidemiological bulletin said that "Fifty-six (additional) people in N’dolo military prison were confirmed with COVID-19."

By 1st May 2020, 43 cases of Coronavirus had been diagnosed at the prison.

The prison, located in the north of the DRC’s capital, which was initially built for 500 inmates today houses between 1,900 and 2,000, according to various sources.

The nation has reported 604 cases in all, mostly in Kinshasa, and 32 deaths.

"The overcrowded and unsanitary prisons in the DRC present a serious risk" for COVID-19 spread, the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned on 17th April 2020.

DRC Minister of Justice, Celestin Tunda, said that at least 1,200 detainees had been released "to slow the spread of the Coronavirus" and that more were expected to be freed the week after.

Congolese authorities say that there is no case yet at Makala, the largest prison in Kinshasa, which houses at least 8,400 detainees.

The first case of the Coronavirus infection in the DRC was registered on 10th March 2020, and since then, 682 cases have been confirmed, with 34 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health team battling the pandemic in the country.

Seven of the DRC’s 26 provinces have recorded cases of COVID-19, but the vast majority of infections (652) have occurred in Kinshasa, a city of 12 million people.


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