Philippines: Improved living conditions for inmates affected by Leyte prison fire

02 December 2015

Manila (ICRC) – Access to clean water, sanitation and overall health and living conditions have improved for 1,800 inmates affected by the fire that struck Leyte Regional Prison two months ago.

On October 8, the prison's Maximum Security Compound was completely destroyed by a fire that also claimed the lives of 10 inmates and injured several others.

"Since it would take some time before a permanent structure could be rebuilt, we supported the prison authorities in taking temporary measures so the inmates may have slightly better conditions," said Woody Assaf, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Tacloban.

On October 25, the ICRC installed two rub halls or relocatable tent-like structures as emergency shelters. The affected prisoners were initially moved to the Minimum Security Compound or slept outdoors after the blaze.

"We continue to improve the rub halls by working on its concrete flooring. Elderly prisoners and those with ailments were prioritized to occupy the rub halls, which also helped decongest the Minimum Security Compound, where about 750 affected prisoners remain. The authorities could partly restore the segregation between compounds, which helps in prison management," said Assaf.

Two 10,000-liter water tanks, distribution lines, and water points were installed by the ICRC to increase the availability of potable water in the prison, benefiting all inmates. Twenty-four new toilets are also being built for their use.

Relief assistance for the prisoners, in the form of dressing kits, medicines and medical items, 2,000 hygiene kits, and 409 sleeping mats and blankets, were provided by the ICRC about a month ago, on top of other emergency items it distributed with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) a day after the fire. Support was provided to ensure that access to basic health services was maintained.

Within its confidential dialogue with the Bureau of Corrections, the ICRC shared its findings, coordinated its response plan, and will further support the authorities in January to develop a plan of action to restore optimum conditions of detention.

As part of its long-term support to the detaining authorities, the ICRC will soon complete the construction of a new infirmary in Leyte Regional Prison to enhance access to, and improve the quality of, medical care for the inmates.

Leyte Regional Prison is one of the places of detention being visited in the country by the ICRC, a neutral, impartial, and independent humanitarian organization, to monitor the conditions of detention and the treatment of people deprived of freedom.

For further information, please contact:
Allison Lopez, ICRC Manila, tel: 0908 868 6884
Wolde-Gabriel Saugeron, ICRC Manila, tel: 0918 907 2125