Shot in the arm for Namibia prison health after N$550 000 UNODC donation

By Moses Magadza

WINDHOEK, FEB 11 – The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) donated medical equipment worth N$550 000 to the Namibia Correctional Service (NCS), as Namibia walks the talk on improving conditions in the country’s correctional facilities.

UNODC secured the equipment with financial assistance from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). The equipment will enable the NCS to set up a clinic at the female section of Windhoek Correctional Facility.

Ms Signe Rotberga, the UNODC Regional Coordinator, handed over the equipment to the head of the NCS, Commissioner General Raphael Hamunyela on Wednesday last week.

Hamunyela thanked UNODC for the donation which he said came at a time when the Namibia Correctional Service planned to open a Female Centre in March at the Windhoek Correctional Facility premises with a carrying capacity of 108 inmates.

The planned Female Centre will serve as the correctional center for all female offenders admitted into the Namibian Correctional Service with programmes for education and training of female inmates, according to the Commissioner General.

Additionally, it will have a child-friendly area for children under the age of two years to bond with their mothers. Hamunyela revealed that the NCS had eight circumstantial children – children who are in correctional facilities together with their convicted mothers across its facilities.

Seated from left: Ms Ruusa Mushimba, UNODC Namibia Programme Coordinator, Commissioner General Raphael Hamunyela Ms Signe Rotberga, the UNODC Regional Coordinator and Dr Otilie Kovolova, the Chief Medical Officer and senior NCS officers after the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) donated medical equipment worth N$550 000 to the Namibia Correctional Service last week. Photo: Moses Magadza

“The Female Centre will also have a health clinic to cater for the health of female inmates. Hence, the support with furniture and medical equipment to furnish the Female Center clinic by the UNODC is indeed a befitting gesture, particularly in light of current financial constraints.”

The donated equipment includes desks, chairs, benches, couches, cabinets, refrigerators, television sets, and medical equipment including a wheelchair, trollies, thermometers, drip stands, beds, mattresses, bedside lockers, pillows, blankets, bed sheets and steps.

Hamunyela said over the years, UNODC had supported NCS significantly.
“The support by the UNODC goes way back and we have recorded a lot of projects since 2015 ranging from training our officers and offenders in HIV and AIDS management; fitting our two ambulances with equipment; spearheading the drafting of the NCS’ Health Policy; supplying us with Doctors’ kits and equipment; funding a trip for Seven NCS officers to important educational trips on change management; funding the NCS to host critical meetings and trainings; and many other activities. The list is endless.”

Dr Irvin Zimudzi (Left), a Senior Medical Officer with the Namibia Correctional Service admires part of the medical equipment that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) donated while Dr Otilie Kovolova, the Chief Medical Officer with NCS and Ms. Signe Rotberga, the UNODC Regional Coordinator look on. Photo: Moses Magadza

He acknowledged Ms. Ruusa Mushimba, the UNODC Namibia Programme Coordinator for facilitating the collaboration between UNODC and NCS.

He revealed that recently, the UNODC agreed to fund rehabilitation programmes in the Namibian Correctional Service in line with the Doha Declaration on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement and Public Health which reaffirms flexibility in circumventing patent rights for better access to essential medicines.

“Projects which are currently at different stages of development include the creation of a soap-manufacturing project and refurbishment of the industrial workshop at Windhoek Correctional Facility, a Hydroponics Project and the repair of the water reservoir at the Gobabis Correctional Facility as well as a Card Making Project at Walvis Bay Correctional Facility,” the Commissioner General said.

He said the donation of medical equipment would enable the Namibian Correctional Service to discharge its mandate of providing “a safe, secure and humane custody of offenders, to rehabilitate and reintegrate them into the community as law abiding citizens”.

Hamunyela said the NCS’ vision is to be Africa’s leader in the provision of correctional services. He said with all all-weather friends like UNODC, it is no longer a question of if, but when that vison would be achieved.
“We stand ready to intensify our collaboration and to introduce more programmes for offenders even after they are released.”

UNODC’s view is that ensuring that people in correctional facilities enjoy the same or even equitable access to health facilities and services as the general population is often easier said than done due to the unique challenges that people in confinement face.

The UN agency says prevalence of diseases such as Tuberculosis, HIV and AIDS is much higher in correctional facilities than in the general population. Additionally, funding for health programmes in prisons is much lower than in the general society.

Yet in spite of these challenges, UNODC says, some countries including Namibia have shown remarkable leadership in reforming prison systems and in the rehabilitation of prisoners while ensuring that communities are protected from crime.

UNODC has commended the Namibian government for its unwavering commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 3, which seek to improve health and wellbeing of all people.

It says Namibia is taking the lead in the implementation of the programme titled, Supporting Minimum Standards for HIV, Health and Rights in Prison Populations of Sub-Saharan Africa, which aims to ensure that prison populations, especially women and adolescents in prison, have access to good quality HIV and AIDS and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Services.

UNODC says the Namibian Correctional Service has set an exemplary scene for other countries to follow on issues related to incarceration and health. This at a time when each year, over 30 million men and women spend time in correctional facilities which have typically higher prevalence for HIV, TB, Sexually Transmitted Infections, and Hepatitis A and B.

Commissioner General Raphael Hamunyela, head of the Namibia Correctional Service (third from left) smiles after receiving medical equipment from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Regional Cordinator, Ms Signe Rotberga. Looking on are Dr Otilie Kovolova, the Chief Medical Officer with NCS (left) and UNODC Namibia Programme Coordinator, Ms Ruusa Mushimba (extreme right). Photo: Moses Magadza

UNODC’s view is that Sexual and Reproductive Health is one of the fundamental human rights and is integral to the health and well-being of every person including those incarcerated and that prisoners and people who use drugs (PWUD) have greater risks for HIV infection in comparison to the general population.

In some countries prisoners and other hard to reach members of society who are also known as key populations are often not adequately reached with quality health services. In some instances, prisoners frequently experience violations of their human rights.

UNODC says for Namibia to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), access to quality SRHR and HIV services by everyone including prisoners must be prioritized.

Given that equipment is not a silver bullet, UNODC encourages correctional services to be relentless in building the capacity of their staff to effectively support ongoing reforms of the prison sector in line with the Nelson Mandela Rules which stipulate the minimum package of care and services that people in confinement are entitled to.

Last year UNODC and NCS undertook an assessment of Namibia’s compliance with the Nelson Mandela Rules and explored ways of improving linkages on SRHR, HIV and AIDS services. – Moses Magadza