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Protecting Prisoners from COVID-19 in Somaliland

GMCP Somaliland

Hargeisa, Somaliland 22 February 2021 – To help prevent and minimize the transmission of COVID-19, UNODC donated over 1,300 relief items to the Hargeisa Central Prison with the generous support of the European Union and the Government of Sweden through the Joint Rule of Law Programme for Somaliland. 

Organized by UNODC’s Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP), in partnership with the Global Prison Challenges Programme, the delivery aims to ensure the uninterrupted availability of crucial supplies and better equip the prison to follow the World Health Organization’s virus prevention and control guidelines. In particular, UNODC GMCP handed over personal protective equipment and cleaning items, including facemasks, disinfectant, and thermometers, among other supplies, benefitting more than 400 prison officials and prisoners for whom physical distancing is sometimes not an option in strictly confined areas.

Extending his appreciation, Mr. Ibraahim Khadar, Director of Prison Affairs and Human Rights of the Somaliland Ministry of Justice, said “UNODC is our close partner when it comes to prison development and rehabilitation of inmates. The Somaliland Government, with the help of its partners, prioritizes the prevention of COVID-19 transmission in prisons and there were no inmates in Somaliland prisons who contracted COVID-19 as of the start of the outbreak. Prisons need COVID-19 prevention materials, like those delivered by UNODC this week, to help maintain the health of incarcerated populations.”

Building on a previous donation of protective equipment and hygiene items in May 2020, this delivery further contributes to realizing the principle of equivalence of care, ensuring that prisoners receive the same level of access to preventative measures and medical treatment as those in the general community.

“In the spirit of the Nelson Mandela Rules, according to which prisoners’ are entitled to treatment and care for infectious diseases, the UNODC-supported donation complements the Somaliland Custodial Corps’ continued efforts to implement international standards,” said UNODC GMCP’s Prison Mentor, Ms. Annette Warman. Like other prisons in Somaliland, the Hargeisa Central Prison has adopted measures to ensure the safety of those both within and outside the facility, including holding visitation hours once a week, to limit opportunities of exposure to the virus, while still ensuring a level of normalization.

GMCP Somaliland

Along with the supplies provided, UNODC GMCP has produced guidelines and an educational video for prison officers and leaders to cope with infectious diseases in places of detention. Recognizing that equipment and resources alone may not be enough to prevent infections, UNODC GMCP will continue to support the Hargeisa Central Prison through capacity-building activities, including embedded mentorship.

“UNODC GMPC is grateful to rely on two Hargeisa-based Prison Mentors, who have been generously seconded by the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, to support the Hargeisa Central Prison, especially in reducing the risks associated with the pandemic,” noted Ms. Kazuyo Mitsuhashi, UNODC GMCP Project Officer. “In the future, we hope our programming will expand to further prisons in Somaliland, like the facility in Berbera, to support contingency planning, infection control measures, and risk assessments, thereby enhancing the preparedness of more prisons against current and future threats.”


For more information:

Video: Viruses and Places of Detention

UNODC COVID-19 Prevention and Control Among People Living in Prisons

UNODC COVID-19 Prevention and Control Among People Working in Prisons  

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


For inquiries, please contact: 

Ms. Kazuyo Mitsuhashi –

Project Officer, UNODC GMCP

UNODC Regional Office for Eastern Africa