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Good prison health is good public health: Responding to COVID-19 in Somalia's prisons 

Somalia, 28 April 2020 - In a bid to support the Government of Somalia’s COVID-19 infection prevention and control (IPC) measures and encourage the rapid adoption of World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, UNODC yesterday provided key commodities and equipment to five prisons and a court complex with the generous support of the European Union and the Government of Sweden.

Arranged through UNODC’s Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP), the donation aims to decrease the risks of infection among personnel and prison populations at the Mogadishu Central Prison, Mogadishu Prison and Court Complex (MPCC), as well as Garowe, Kismayo, Baidoa and Beledweyn prisons. 

UNODC provided personal hygiene commodities for prisoners, including bars of soap, wall-mounted soap and sanitizer dispensers and refills, toothbrushes and tooth paste. Prisoners were also provided with new blankets, mattresses, mats and kitchenware.  

Appreciating that COVID-19 has resulted in visit limitations to keep both staff and prisoners healthy, UNODC also provided sports equipment, literature and religious reading materials, and stationary to support leisure activities and maintenance of physical and mental health. 

In an effort to keep individual and common areas sanitized and COVID-19-free, GMCP also donated cleaning products and equipment, such as disinfectant, laundry powder, bleach, washing liquid, brooms, mops, buckets, cleaning sponges and cloths. Commodities were also procured for the clinics and included basic wound dressing, antiseptic solutions and thermometers.    

Finally, taking occupational hazard being a priority for all prison administrations, UNODC supported the prison staff with COVID-19 prevention commodities including medical respiratory mask (N95), disposable examination gloves, as well as and nitrile gloves for high risk areas and duties.  

With this support, UNODC will assist over 700 prisoners and appointed personnel located at Mogadishu Prison and Court Complex (MPCC), as well as Garowe, Kismayo, Baidoa and Beledweyn prisons. 

Specifically, in Baidoa Central prison, a prison hosting 127 inmates and 60 Custodial Corps, the UNODC Implementation Focal Point in Baidoa, Mr. Ahmed Ali, conveyed the sincere thanks of the Prison Administration. “The prison commander sends his sincere regards to UNODC-GMCP and the individuals who facilitated this delivery for making such a generous contribution to the improvement of the conditions in Somali prisons. The prisoners are very happy and making great use of these items,” he said.

In addition to the items provided, UNODC-GMCP also developed and shared guidelines for prison officers and management to cope with infectious diseases in places of detention. 

Through this support, UNODC - as the lead agency of the Somalia Joint Corrections Services Support Programme (JCP) - contributes to the National Development Plan 2017-2019, that encompasses UN Strategic Priority 4: Effective and accountable institutions that respond to needs and rights of all Somalis, the Security Pact and Transition Plan. UNODC-GMCP implements this in collaboration with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). 

In the context of COVID-19, UNODC recognizes more than ever the need to support Member States to address the specific conditions and infection risks that prison settings represent for both people working in prisons and prisoners. 

The UNODC Regional Office for Eastern Africa in the past weeks has put together initiatives aimed at decreasing occupational hazards for personnel as well as preventing and controlling infection among the prison populations.   

UNODC supports the implementation of virus prevention and control measures in East African prisons but recognizes these measures alone may not be enough to prevent prisons becoming epicentres in some countries – given many systems are plagued with overcrowding and systemic challenges. 

COVID-19 preparedness in prisons must also be accompanied with efforts to reduce the number of new admissions and the acceleration of releases of selected categories of prisoner. The extraordinary risks that COVID-19 poses in prisons require evidence-based prevention and control measures. These need to be implemented in full compliance with the United Nations Minimum Standards for the treatment of prisoners in order to protect all those in prisons and those in the general populations.  

UNODC’s efforts to stem the coronavirus infections in prisons is anchored in the principle of equivalence of care that suggests that prisoners deserve the same levels of access to medical treatment and preventive measures, without discrimination, as those in the general community. 

More information

UNODC Position Paper on COVID-19 Preparedness and Responses in Prison

Video (English): Viruses in places of detention

Video (français): Les Virus dans les Centres de Détention