May 25, 2004
With a 1,500-person capacity, MACA prison in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, is perpetually overcrowded, averaging 5,400 detainees. The horrendous conditions give rise to cholera epidemics and tuberculosis. In fact a cholera outbreak in 1997 first brought Médecins Sans Frontières to provide care in the prison. Currently MSF's medical team treats tuberculosis, the main cause of death during non-epidemic periods.
In the courtyard at the MACA, one might almost forget the muffled sounds of banging doors, the darkness, the men crammed in the cells. Every day the detainees in buildings A and B can spend the day outdoors-except for those being punished, who are confined to the "blindé" ("armored division"), the solitary confinement cells in building C, where the long-termers live. Under the trees, in the corners of the buildings, men talk endlessly, wait around, and get bored.
MSF has worked here since 1997, first in order to curb a cholera epidemic. In 2003 MSF had performed 19,000 consultations in the prison's infirmary, which includes six hospitalization rooms and an isolation area in case of disease outbreaks.
MACA prison, Ivory Coast - "Malaria and infectious respiratory diseases require rapid treatment." Photo © MSF
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)