Inmates die in dirty Kenyan cells

November 23, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 23 – Basic hygiene standards are still being flouted in Kenyan state penitentiaries despite the promise of prison reforms to guarantee inmates their basic human rights.

More than 10 people are said to have died in the past week alone due to the water borne disease and admitted to the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) are 67 cholera cases.

KNH Director Jotham Michemi says apart from the 52 cases from the Kamiti Maximum Prison, they are also treating 15 other patients brought in from Mathare, Muthurwa and Kibera.

"There is an outbreak of Cholera, the tests we have conducted on the samples received from Kamiti have shown that it is Cholera. But this is not the only place with Cholera, there is an outbreak of the disease because we are also treating other similar cases from other areas," Dr Michemi said.

Home Affairs Minister Kalonzo Musyoka said on Monday that the government would ensure common facilities at Prisons are disinfected and enforce strict hygiene in the preparation of food.

“Various government agencies and donors are involved in putting in place hygienic measures which will minimize further spread of cholera at the Kamiti Prison,” said the Vice President when he visited sick inmates at KNH.

Nine convicts have died of a cholera outbreak in the last two days at the Kamiti Maximum Prison.

Prisoners’ movements have now been restricted and a temporary ban on guests has been enforced.

"We regret the loss of lives of the nine prisoners and we continue to do everything possible to ensure we safeguard the lives of those who have shown symptoms of the disease," Mr Musyoka said.

Cholera is a water-borne disease that can also be transmitted by food that has been in contact with sewage.

It causes serious diarrhoea and vomiting leading to dehydration. With a short incubation period, it can be fatal if not treated in time.

"As a government we have signed several local and international pacts on the respect for the sanctity of human life, and assure you that we are committed to upholding all the basic rights of every Kenyan, including those in prisons," Mr Musyoka said.

He announced that the government would put up a hospital at the prison as the dispensary in the facility was unable to deal with the inmates population.

He urged Kenyans to observe basic hygienic practices like hand washing before and after meals and after visiting toilets, and boiling of drinking water to curtail further spread of the disease and other water-borne diseases.

Mr Musyoka once again reiterated the government\’s resolve to pursue reforms aimed at reducing congestion in the country\’s penal institutions, in line with the recommendations of the Madoka Report.

"We are also liaising closely with other arms of the government involved in the dispensation of justice to ensure faster resolution of cases since the problem of congestion is attributable to those in remand," Mr Musyoka noted.

The government has attributed the cholera outbreak to water scarcity and poor sanitation- for instance in informal settlements only about five per cent of the population is served by a pit latrine.


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