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Prison crisis worries United Nation

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The United Nations (UN) resident office has said it is concerned about a number of human rights issues in Malawi with congestion and starvation in prisons and the protection of persons with albinism being some of the major ones.

Reports of dire straits in the country’s prisons continue emerging with some correctional facilities facing acute food shortage and disease burdens due to congestion, among others.

Additionally, while there apparently is progress on the protection of persons with albinism, most of them—particularly those that have directly or indirectly been affected by attacks—continue living in fear and want government to offer them special security.

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In an interview after an interaction of UN agencies and the media in Lilongwe on Friday, UN Resident Coordinator, Mia Seppo, said the organisation is also concerned about the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual and Intersex (LGTBI) community and those of women, children and girls.

On the crisis in prisons, Seppo who also doubles as UNDP Resident Representative, said medium-term solutions should be explored so that while serving time, inmates should continue enjoying their basic rights.

“Overcrowding is an issue which is further compounded by the humanitarian situation and we are working with the government of Malawi in terms of getting medium-term solutions of getting the prison farms up and running.

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“The number of prisoners as compared to the prison capacity is very disproportionate. There is an overcrowding rate of almost 200 percent but the short-term problem is that there are many reports of starvation in prisons and that’s a human rights issue that needs to be addressed,” said Seppo.

She added that Malawi has been doing relatively well by, among other things, reporting to various human rights treaty bodies within the UN framework, the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) on the country’s human rights status.

Regarding the interaction with the media, Seppo said the UN family wanted to draw the scribes’ attention to UN resources “to make your work easier”. The resources include websites where there reportedly are a number of recent publications which the media can access.

The discussion also focused on Malawi breaking the cycle of food and nutrition insecurity and build resilience.

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