Kenya: Red Cross races to prevent spread of COVID-19 to country’s prisons

31 March 2020
Kenya: Red Cross races to prevent spread of COVID-19 to country’s prisons

Nairobi (Kenya Red Cross/ICRC) – The Kenya Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are working with the Kenya Prison Services to fortify prison facilities across the country from the threat of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This includes 60,000 pieces of soap that are being delivered to prisons nationwide.

"We are at a critical stage in the response to COVID-19 as the number of those infected continues to rise. Kenya Red Cross has increased its activities especially creating awareness among the public and supporting access to handwashing facilities. We are all aware that people in prisons are some of the most vulnerable among us," said Dr Asha Mohammed, secretary general of the Kenya Red Cross Society. "We must ensure that no one is left behind in the fight against COVID-19."

Forty-eight men's, women's, and juvenile prisons are being reached by the effort, which includes setting up handwashing stations and providing soap and disinfectant gel as well as health education to inmates about how COVID-19 is spread. Prison staff are also being trained in COVID-19 prevention, symptoms, and what to do if someone is sick.

"COVID-19 knows no boundaries. If the virus gets inside a prison's walls, it could be catastrophic. Physical distancing is an impossibility, so we are doing what we can to prevent an outbreak from happening in the first place and working with authorities on measures to be taken if a case emerges," said Olivier Dubois, the ICRC's head of delegation in Kenya.

The ICRC is also working with the medical directorate of the Kenya Prison Services to establish medical protocols for COVID-19 in prisons. This includes infection prevention measures at the entrance of prisons such as handwashing and temperature checks as well as procedures to be taken if an inmate is sick and needs to be transported to a hospital.

"Globally, the impact of the virus is still unfolding. However, the Service is taking all-around effective measures to combat the virus spread. I want to assure you that we are at the forefront of assessing and preventing the possible spread of this pandemic in our penal facilities countrywide. Some of the measures may cause inconvenience but I assure you they are designed to ensure that we effectively contain the spread of the virus. We are encouraged to note that all our penal facilities have complied with the measures we have so far put in place with the valuable support of the Government and augmented by the ICRC and the Kenya Red Cross. We continue to appeal to all inmates, staff and their families to take the matter seriously and observe the advisories issued which are all aimed at containing the spread of the pandemic," said Wycliffe Ogallo, CBS Commissioner General of Prisons.

With family visits suspended due to the virus, the Kenya Red Cross is planning to offer additional phones to prisons increasing the capacity of the phone services in place for the prisoners so that they can stay in touch with their families. The support to prisons is part of a wider effort by the Kenya Red Cross to combat COVID-19 across Kenya, which includes more than 250,000 handwashing stations in communal places such as markets; a 24-hour counseling hotline (1199); and tracing for those who have had close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

For further information, please contact:

Kenya Red Cross
Peter Abawo, KRCS, +254 711 590 911

Anne Kilimo, ICRC Nairobi, +254 722 202 039
Crystal Wells, ICRC Nairobi, +254 716 897 265