Letter to the President – Corvid-19 Emergency Response In Correctional Facilities in Zambia
Greetings fellow countrymen!
As we all should be aware that covid-19 has been detected and is now officially at 16 cases within the country of Zambia. As Advocacy for Child Justice, ACJ and LifeSavers Zambia, we would like to commend the Government for taking swift measures by closing the Schools and Universities within the country to safeguard our children and youths. Also, the complete shutdown of of bars, restaurants and limiting numbers for gatherings to 50 people and of course time for churches. This is welcome.
As Advocacy for Child Justice and LifeSavers Zambia, we are concerned about the state of the Correctional facilities in the country which have capacity to hold 5,500 inmates but continue to house abnormal numbers such as more than 21,000 in 2018, 23,000 in 2019, of whom almost 6,000 were pardoned by His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu on 24th October 2019, which was highly noted and appreciated. And due to His Excellency exercising his prerogative of mercy as provided for in Article 97(1) of Amendment Act No. 2 of 2016 of the Constitution of Zambia, the numbers were effectively brought down to estimated 17,000 inmates in our correctional facilities in Zambia.
However, we must known that between November 2019 to date, the number of inmates across the country has increased by even more than the number pardoned and as is currently standing at 25,000 inmates. With such overcrowding and the terrible sanitation of our Correctional facilities where running water continues to be a challenge, no proper ablution, inadequate supply of toiletries for personal hygiene, all which make our facilities extremely high risk environments for the spread of the COVID -19.
We also wish to bring to the attention of His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu that more vulnerable are the incarcerated pregnant mothers, the children living with their mothers in the Correctional facilities, juveniles and other inmates with compromised immune systems due to different health challenges, living non facilities whose structures we well know are punitive in nature and do not adequately cater for the unique needs of women, circumstantial children and child offenders. Circumstantial children are not even budgeted for in any way.
In 2010, 6.8% of incarcerated females were pregnant and 50% received HIV medication. In 2018, there was an average of 70 circumstantial children in our Correctional facilities.
Today, we still have incarcerated mothers living with their children in these child unfriendly correctional facilities.
We wish to urge and recommend that the Government to raise to the challenge in the fight of COVID -19 to promote and protect children in these correctional facilities as provided for in article 24 of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Zambia is party.
Should the COVID -19 reach our Correctional facilities, inmates with immuno ailments such as TB and HIV, will easily be infected, pausing an even greater danger to these children and other inmates. With the already under staffing of 3,050 staff members and 25 Health facilities to service more than 80 Institutions across the country, having an outbreak in our facilities may be unmanageable.
It is our hope that the President of the Republic of Zambia will take deliberate steps to help prevent the spread of this COVID -19. Therefore, ACJ appeals to His Excellency, Mr.President Edgar Chagwa Lungu and his government to consider the following;
1. Decongesting the Correctional facilities by exercising your prerogative of mercy as per 97(1) of the constitution;
-Pardon or direct to be released on bail some inmates who have served the greater part of their sentence
-Those with minor offenses consider none- custodial sentence
-Mothers with their circumstantial children non-custodial sentence
– Isolation or releasing child remandees who are mixed with adults
– Isolating inmates with immuno ailments such as HIV and TB.
2.Improve the sanitation and hygiene of the Correctional facilities by providing water points, disinfectants, sanitizers, bath soap, masks, gloves, etc.
3.Popularize child-friendly versions of the health guidelines in at least 7 local languages including English, to all 10 Provinces through both print and electronic media, particularly community radios to reach the remote rural areas in keeping with the provision of the UNCRC to uphold children’s right to receive information.
4.Ensure enough health points are available in all Provinces and easily accessible by all children including those in Refugee Camps and children with disabilities especially in rural areas where 50% of households are more than 5km away from a health facility.
5.Provide health kits (water points, disinfectants, sanitizers, masks, gloves, etc.) in keeping with the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which stipulates that “Everyone has the right to prevention, treatment and control of diseases; the right to health facilities and services.”
6.We urge Government to continue placing demand on all child welfare and protection institutions such as children’s homes and villages, to follow the health guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health to ensure the safety of the children in their care.
Your Excellency, we are confident that these steps will contribute to a reduction in the risk of spread of the COVID-19 and prevent what could turn out to be a health disaster!
We would like to earnestly implore the Government through His Excellency Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, to urgently take these few suggestions into account. Our appeal to Civil Society, all stakeholders and the general public is to continue rallying together to supplement Government efforts.
To every good loving Zambian, let us follow the health guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health and continue in prayer for each other for protection and divine health. For united and with God on our side, we can conquer coronavirus!
ONE ZAMBIA, ONE NATION!
Advocacy for Child Justice (ACJ) and LifeSavers Zambia, I thank you!