Stories from UNODC Southern Africa

Health in prison: Zimbabwean MPs undertake field tours


ZPCS Deputy Commissioner General Dr. Dube (right, in uniform) with MP's

during a tour at Chikurubi Maximum Prison

HARARE, ZIMBABWE - Zimbabwean Members of Parliament have undertaken site visits to three correctional facilities to better appreciate health-related challenges that inmates face.

The visits to prisons followed a capacity building initiative which sought to unpack the Zimbabwean Constitution, review laws, policies and Acts related to Adolescent Girls and Young Women, Key populations and Prisoners.

MPs from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health and Child Care, Justice, legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development and Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS participated in the capacity building in June 2019.  Other participants included staff of Parliament, representatives of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), officials from the Ministry of Health and the National AIDS Council (NAC).

During an earlier workshop, participants received presentations on various relevant issues including the general HIV and AIDS situation in prisons; the Nelson Mandela Rules; HIV prevalence in prisons; review of health services in prisons; and TB prevalence in prisons.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care and National AIDS Council organised the workshop and visits to prisons with support from the UN Family and other development partners.

MPs were able to visit three correctional facilities, namely Chikurubi Maximum Prison and Chikurubi Female Prison in the Zimbabwean capital city of Harare and Mutare Farm Prison in eastern Zimbabwe on the border with Mozambique.

Part of the work done by UNODC seeks to strengthen the capacity of national governments to put in place legal, policy and strategy instruments that adhere to UN Minimum standards of HIV and AIDS and SRHR for prison populations. The objective of these oversight visits was to sensitize Members of Parliament on strategies, policies, normative guidelines and UN instruments for SRHR and HIV prevention in prison settings.

The visits to prisons threw light on many challenges including overcrowding, shortage of basic medicines, inadequate food and nutrition, inadequate blankets and clothing for inmates and shortage of transport for inmates. The MPs discovered, also, that the mental health of some inmates was not being adequately addressed.

The Parliamentarians pledged to address challenges being faced by the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service. As elected representatives of the people, MPs occupy privileged position and can influence national laws, policies, strategies and guidelines to adhere to Minimum Standards on HIV and AIDS and SRHR for prison populations.

After the site visits, local media quoted Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health acting chairperson Daniel Molokele-Tsiye as saying MPs would push the government to improve Chikurubi Prison facilities.

"The life of inmates has to be improved. These facilities were built for a small population in the Rhodesia era. The population has so far increased. Even the budget must be increased because it is no longer adequate. There is also need to ensure that there are enough supplies of drugs and condoms to prevent the spread of HIV and Aids," the lawmaker was quoted as saying.

Nelson Mandela Rules and the Comprehensive package for HIV service in prison settings strive to not only enhance the inherent dignity of people but also set standards on how prisoners should be treated and how health interventions should be employed to comprehensively contribute to the realization of good health outcomes for prisoners and staff in prison settings.

Accordingly, prisoners are entitled without discrimination to a standard of health care equivalent to that available in the general community.