Centre for Human Rights, Education, Advice and Assistance (Chreaa) has embarked on a project aimed at raising awareness on tuberculosis (TB)-related risks faced by prisoners.
The organisation is, among other things, promoting TB screening and the provision of satisfactory health services in the country’s prisons.
Speaking during an awareness campaign at Chikwawa Prison Thursday, Chreaa Programmes Manager, Joyness Dziwani, said prisoners are at a higher risk of complications and mortality from TB due to delays in diagnosis and treatment.
‘‘Due to lack of resources, prisoners in the country are neglected and have limited access to basic health care. This places the prison population at higher risk of contracting TB,’’ Dziwani said.
Dziwani cited overcrowding, poor ventilation as some of the factors that fuel TB infections in reformatory institutions.
She urged stakeholders to intensify disease screening campaigns.
‘‘Basically, the prison department is supposed to conduct disease screening upon every prisoner’s entry and their release but, because of the resource challenges, they are failing to do so,’’ she said.
Dan Kang’ombe, one of the doctors at Chikwawa District Hospital, said district officials were ready to conduct mass screening at the prison.
‘‘We conducted our last mass screening at Chikwawa Prison in February this year. Due to financial problems, we have not screened prisoners at the facility lately.
‘‘But with support from other stakeholders, we are planning to conduct mass screening in August this year so that we can be aware of the diseases, if any, that affect prisoners and, possibly, help them with medical support,’’ Kang’ombe said.
Chikwawa Prison Officer-in-Charge, Senior Superintendent Maxwell Kamowa, said the facility has a high rate of TB patients.
‘‘Right now, we have seven TB Patients who are on treatment, but these were diagnosed in February during the mentioned mass screening,’’ Kamowa said.
Kamowa added that Chikwawa Prison has no separate rooms for patients with TB, adding that those on TB treatment live with the rest of the prison population.
‘‘We have the capacity of 240 prisoners but, in the meantime, we are having 458 prisoners surpassing the recommended figure, a situation that automatically tells someone that there is high congestion,’’ he said.
The project of raising awareness on TB, titled “End TB in Prison, A Commitment For All’, is being implemented in all prisons in Malawi, with funding from the Aids Alliance for Southern Africa.—Mana
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