Govt to dispatch medical staff to prisons
HEALTH Minister Molotsi Monyamane has said doctors, nurses and pharmacists would “soon” be dispatched to correctional institutions to stem spiralling infections of communicable diseases and HIV/AIDS.
Dr Monyamane made the remarks in his address during Prison Day celebrations held on Friday at Maseru Central Correctional Institution grounds. The commemorations were held under the theme, “Good Prison Health is Good Public Health – Lesotho in Rhythm with the International Community” and marked with community work such as tree-planting, revamping of roads and education campaigns across the country.
During the Maseru celebrations, which were also attended by Justice, Human Rights and Correctional Services Minister Moeketse Malebo and his Education and Training counterpart Mahali Phamotse, inmates and officers engaged in a tug-of-war, aerobics, ndlamo and mokhibo dance.
According to Dr Monyamane, correctional institutions had become breeding grounds for HIV/AIDS and communicable diseases such as Tuberculosis hence the decision to dispatch the health practitioners to stem the tide.
“As a ministry, we are going to offer doctors, nurses, pharmacists to assist the inmates. When inmates seek medical attention at health institutions, they are harassed for being convicts,” he said.
“We should all remember we are all related one way or the other and need to treat each other with respect. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS among inmates is at 31.4 percent, which compels us to work together as Basotho and other development partners to bring down this alarming statistic.”
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Regional Coordinator sub-Saharan Africa, Nthabeleng Moshoeshoe, urged government to address the issue of overcrowding in prisons which she said was contributing to the spread of communicable diseases.
Ms Moshoeshoe asked the gathering how they would want to be treated should they be incarcerated, to which Dr Phamotse said: “I would want to feel at home even though I have done something wrong and don’t want to be tortured or assaulted.”
“That is how inmates should be treated,” Ms Moshoeshoe said. “Overcrowding in prisons should be looked into especially because of infectious diseases such TB and other skin-related infections.”
She also noted 70 percent of male prisoners were at risk of being raped on the first day of incarceration as a result of overcrowding.
On his part, Lesotho Correctional Services Acting Commissioner, ‘Matefo Makhalemele said the institution had established a department dealing exclusively with the wellbeing of officers and inmates.
Ms Makhalemele said: “There is an independent nursing sister, nutritionist and pharmacist in the department. This is because when the inmates and officers leave the prisons, people outside should be protected from diseases.”
Echoing similar sentiments, Mr Malebo said the health of the general public also hinged on the wellbeing of the prison population.
“We need to realise that prisoners are part of the community since they will return home once they are released,” he said.
“We, therefore, need to look after their welfare since all diseases, even those affecting prisoners, also affect us.”