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Rwanda: Emergency aid in Rilima Prison

05-04-2001 News Release 01/13

Over the last few days, the ICRC has stepped up its aid to Rilima prison, situated in the region of Bugesera, south-east Rwanda. The majority of the 7,400 inmates are being held awaiting trial, but deteriorating hygiene has killed dozens over the last few months. Poor detention conditions and lack of food are accentuating the effects of malaria (endemic in the region), typhus (diagnosis still to be confirmed) and diarrhoea.

A week ago, the ICRC initiated measures to increase the amount of water available at the prison, repairing a pump and installing additional storage tanks. The organization is currently arranging treatment for dozens of the most severely ill detainees, having already supplied the necessary medicines. The ICRC is also ready to assist the Rwandan authorities in fully disinfecting the prison, for which the materials required will be available in a few days. The health and interior ministries have been briefed on the seriousness of the situation in this prison.

The ICRC lacks the means to take over from the Rwandan authorities, and nor does it wish to do so; it is the authorities who are responsible for detainee health and prison hygiene in their country. The ICRC is encouraging the bodies responsible to devote the attention and resources to this problem that it requires, while fully aware that the Rwandan population at large does not necessarily live under hygienic conditions or have access to health care.

The ICRC delegation is maintaining contact with the Rwandan authorities, both locally and at the highest level, in an effort to improve the functioning of the bodies responsible for Rilima prison and all other places of detention in Rwanda. The aim is that preventive measures taken by the government should prevent any recurrence of a similar emergency in the coming months.

The ICRC makes regular visits to places of detention in Rwanda, meeting over half the food requirements of 92,000 detainees spread over 19 central prisons.

Rwanda is currently trying to deal with the problem of holding 115,000 detainees, most of them accused of involvement in the genocide of April to July 1994. Some 20,000 are being held in village lockups, of which three-quarters are in the provinces of Gitarama and Butare.

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