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Tajikistan: From food distribution to food production

16-07-1998 News Release 98/28

A new ICRC assistance programme designed to help the Tajik prison administration start producing food for detainees is about to yield its first crops. Several plots of land covering a total area of approximately 154 hectares have been sown with potatoes, wheat and beans to supply the kitchens of 14 government-run prisons. Seed, fertilizers and various agricultural supplies were provided by the ICRC. Both the prison authorities and the Ministry of Agriculture welcomed this programme, which will allow them to grow enough food for the detainees.

Last week delegates proceeded with the final food distributions in prisons, putting an end to the nutritional assistance programme which the ICRC had launched in the summer of 1996 to reduce the alarming death rate among the 7,000 detainees who are languishing in Tajik jails. Although the programme achieved its aim, surveys show that the overall situation remains far from satisfactory. Each month the ICRC distributed about 120 tonnes of food for the detainees. However, in several prisons government supplies were reduced and the ICRC programme was used to replace ordinary rations.

While delegates can deliver assistance, they have so far been unable to hold private meetings with persons detained as a result of the 1992 internal conflict. Such meetings are standard ICRC practice.