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Zimbabwe: MSF Responds to Prison Malnutrition and Hygiene Needs
August 5, 2009
In July, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) began an intervention in Kwekwe prison in Zimbabwe’s central Midlands Province. The intervention at Kwekwe focuses on providing basic health care and therapeutic feeding to the inmates, many of whom are severely malnourished. Additionally, MSF aims to improve the poor water and sanitation conditions in the prison, including performing cholera prevention activities. The prison in Kwekwe is the first of seven institutions MSF will be working in over the next four months.
“We found prisoners wearing torn and ragged uniforms and lacking blankets during Zimbabwe’s coldest months . . .”
“In Kwekwe we have assessed 179 prisoners, of whom 17 percent were identified as being malnourished,” says Pip Millard, MSF project coordinator. “We found prisoners wearing torn and ragged uniforms and lacking blankets during Zimbabwe’s coldest months, with prison officers doing their best with limited resources.”
“The condition of latrines was often dreadful due to a lack of water for flushing. Soap or other disinfectants were missing.”
Following good cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Health, MSF expanded its involvement beyond the first interventions in Kadoma and Bindura. Two rapid surveillance teams conducted an assessment of the health, nutrition, and water and sanitation situations in 15 prisons. Rapid physical assessments were conducted together with prison health staff at each of the surveyed sites. Body mass index (BMI) and mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) were calculated for almost 2,000 prisoners. MSF’s nutritional survey results revealed that four percent of the inmates were severely malnourished, five percent malnourished, and 14 percent at risk.
MSF has been working in Zimbabwe since 2000. Since the beginning of the cholera outbreak in August 2008, MSF has treated 45,000 patients. MSF also provides care for more than 40,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, including 26,000 who are receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART), and provides nutritional support to severely malnourished children.