To address fears of prisoners from COVID-19 and minimize risk of transmission, UNODC donates medical supplies to Ethiopia's prisons

Photo: © UNODC

6 May 2020 - In Ethiopia, there have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases in prisons.  However, the uncertainty of the extent and impact of COVID-19 has created anxiety and fear among prisoners, including increased feelings of isolation. 

To address these fears and to help minimize the risk of infection and transmission of COVID-19 in places of detention, with the generous support of the Government of Sweden, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Ethiopia handed over medical supplies to the Federal Prison Commission. 

Speaking from UNODC Headquarters in Vienna via a recorded message, Ms. Margaret Akullo, UNODC Representative a.i. said, “People in prison should enjoy quality health care and should have access to the necessary health-care services free of charge without discrimination on the grounds of their legal status.” 

Mr. Abasso, the Commissioner General of the Federal Prison Commission, thanked UNODC and its partners for the provision of much needed medical supplies and the continued support in the national response to the pandemic. He added that as part of the COVID-19 prevention measures in Ethiopia, “out of a prisoner population of over 110,000, the Commission released close to 40,000 prisoners since March 2020.” He added that those released, “were imprisoned for minor offences or approaching their release, including women detainees with children and expectant mothers,” and were quarantined before being let into the community.

Mr. Abraham Ayalew, UNODC Officer-in-Charge in Ethiopia handed over the medical supplies to the Federal Prison Commission and said that “the work is closely aligned with the UNODC National Plan of Action (2019-2021) for Ethiopia and is a joint collaboration with the Government of Ethiopia.” Mr. Ayalew added that COVID-19 related communication materials have been translated into Amharic and other local languages and was handed over to Prison Administration and will be disseminated to the federal and regional states. 

In this regard, UNODC acknowledges the collaboration in Ethiopia with OHCHR, UNICEF, UN Women and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who have also played a key role in advocating for the human rights of people in detention facilities. 

In this first phase, UNODC provided medical supplies that will target at least 3,000 prisoners, 2,700 prison officials and 80 health care workers in federal and regional prisons. The planning for a second phase of support is underway and will include the provision of additional medical supplies including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and sanitary products to prisons, police, a children’s remand centre and a women’s shelter for victims of human trafficking.