Haiti: Eight prisoners starve to death due to malnutrition crisis in prisons

At least eight inmates die of starvation in overcrowded jail Haiti Which ran out of food two months ago, this year saw dozens of similar deaths as the country’s institutions collapsed.

City government commissioner Ronald Richmond said on Thursday that hunger and oppressive heat contributed to the inmate deaths reported this week by the prison in the southwest city of Les Cayes. He said that there are 833 prisoners in the jail.

“Whoever can help should help immediately because the prisoners are in need,” he said.

The United Nations Security Council released a report last week that documented 54 deaths in prisons related to malnutrition Haiti Between January and April alone.

It urged Haiti’s government to “take the necessary measures to find a long-term solution to the prison’s food, water and drug crisis”.

The country’s overcrowded prison system has long struggled to provide food and water to prisoners. It blames insufficient government funding, and the problem has gotten worse in recent months, leading to severe malnutrition and a new increase in deaths.

By law, prisons in Haiti are required to provide inmates with water and twice a day food, which usually consists of porridge and a bowl of rice with fish or some kind of meat.

But in recent months, prisoners have been forced to rely entirely on friends or family for food and water, and are often unable to travel because gang-related violence makes some areas impassable. , Michelle Karan, non-profit Health Through Walls, which provides healthcare in Haiti prisons.

“These deaths are very painful,” she said. “The internal organs begin to fail one by one … It is a terrible thing to see.”

Health Through Walls has launched several programs to target the problem in the long run, including starting a garden in a prison in northern Haiti that produces spinach and other crops, along with a chicken coop and a planned fish farm. .

“But that’s a prison,” said Karan. “The bottom line is that the prison system has to take responsibility. They cannot sit back… they are the government. ,

Les Cays and other cities in Haiti’s southern region have also been affected by the spike in gang violence that is Main roads out of Haiti’s capital blockedThis has made it extremely difficult to distribute food and other supplies to the rest of the country, said Pierre Esperance, executive director of Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network.

In addition, a water pump on which Les Cays prison relies has long since broken down, forcing relatives and friends of prisoners to carry buckets of water from long distances, Richmond said.

Les Caes, like the surrounding cities, is still struggling to recover from a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck southwest Haiti in August, which killed more than 2,200 people and destroyed or damaged thousands of buildings.

Richmond said some of the prison’s cells were destroyed and not rebuilt, forcing officials to cram even more people into a smaller space.

According to the United Nations, the cell occupancy rate in Haiti is over 280%, with 83% of prisoners stuck in pre-trial detention, which in some cases can last more than a decade before a preliminary court appearance. Many prisoners take turns to sleep on the floor while others simply stand or try to make hammocks and attach them to the windows of the cell, paying someone to hold their place.