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Haiti: the ICRC rehabilitates damaged national prison

16-02-2010 Feature

With overcrowding as high as 80% in Haiti’s places of detention, the country’s inmates face increased health risks – a situation made far gloomier following the devastation caused by the January earthquake. The ICRC is intensifying work it has been carrying out in prisons for years to improve the lot of detainees.

   
©ICRC/J. Barry/ ht-e-00587 
 
Some areas of the prison were badly damaged during the earthquake; others were spared and needed only a thorough cleaning. 
       
©ICRC/J. Barry/ ht-e-00588 
 
The walls as well as the floors were scrubbed. The clean-up took several days. 
       
©ICRC/J. Barry/ ht-e-00589 
 
While the network of pipes was being repaired, workers drew water from an underground storage tank. 
      

On 5 February the ICRC began a major rehabilitation and cleaning operation in the main national penitentiary – known as the'Prison Civile'– in Port-au-Prince, which was heavily damaged during the 12 January earthquake and is temporarily closed. 

The work, which is being done by local contractors and should be completed in the coming days, involves the repair of the broken water network and electricity supply, the emptying and cleansing of eight congested septic tanks, the cleaning and disinfecting of four accommodation blocks, the dispensary and the kitchen, and the provision of rubbish bins for the prison yards. The work is being undertaken in close cooperation with the prison authorities.

A team of 30 sanitation workers have been hired to do the clean-up.

Bunk beds have been ordered for the accommodation blocks, in order to ensure adequate space for the detainees in each cell, and 30 metric tonnes of food, including rice, beans, salt and cooking oil have been delivered to the prison kitchen.

Fortunately the prison dispensary, which the ICRC supplies regularly with medicines, was not affected by the quake, and for the moment there are no additional needs.

The monitoring of places of detention is a fundamental part of the ICRC's mandate to ensure humanitarian conditions for detainees worldwide. Equally important is the support that the ICRC can give to prison authorities who, in times of crisis or war, are unable to provide basic necessities such as food, water, clothing and medical treatment to prisoners in their custody.

" One of the main objectives of the work we are doing in the Prison Civile, and will be doing elsewhere, is to ensure that detainees are not housed in unsafe buildings as a result of the earthquake, " explains Martin Gauthier, the ICRC's water and habitat coordinator in Haiti. " At the same time, it is an opportunity to improve living conditions and help provide more space for the detainees. "

The ICRC has been present in Haiti since 1994 and has been visiting prisons all over the country for the past ten years. In response to the recent quake, the delegation has substantially expanded its activities. There are currently around 30 expatriates and 88 national staff involved in the relief effort.