Between mid-August and September 10, 2020, seven detainees were reported starving to death at Bunia central prison, in the Ituri province. Between January and September 10, 2020, altogether 52 inmates died of malnutrition in this prison.
Bunia central prison has not received any state subsidy since February 2020.
To deal with this situation, MONUSCO correction administration support section organized on September 11, 2020, an emergency video-conference meeting between Kinshasa and Bunia, with, inter alia, the prison administration, the provincial ministers of health and human rights in Ituri and the heads of the provincial division of health and Justice.
After the meeting, a plegde was received from the central government in Kinshasa to provide Ituri with the necessary funds to enable them to take care of the detainees. Camille Zonzi, Bunia central prison governor said he is partially satisfied with the fallout from this video conference.
"I'm happy because with this outcome since I have always made a plea in this regard. But in actual fact, the problem is not wholly solved. The prison administration governor applauded that salaries and subsidies for the prisons have been disbursed and could be available at the bank as early as Friday or tomorrow Saturday. However, these are only grants for the first quarter of 2020. Yet, in the meantime and due to lack of grants, we had already accumulated many debts for a period of 3 quarters. The ideal would be for us to be receiving the funds on a quarterly basis, "said Camille Zonzi.
The participants proposed long-term solutions to face this recurring issue of starvation at the Bunia prison. Two more decisions were taken during this virtual meeting. The first is about the provision of a 3-hectare site by the army in Rwampara, 3 kilometers from Bunia. This land will serve as an agricultural farm where the detainees can grow vegetables and other food stuffs for their own consumption. The advantage being such that with the donation, detainees will no longer have to go back and forth to work there, they will be accommodated and kept on the site by members of the FARDC, which will limit the risk of escape, explains Camille Zonzi.
The other decision related to the revival of the activities such as sewing, carpentry/wood and soap-making within the prison. This will allow the inmates and the prison to generate income which will also help provide food for the inmates.
"With the help of our usual partners, including MONUSCO, the agricultural farm produce will be harvested very swiftly and the funds to be generated by the three activities will be used in the event of delay in subsidies, and we will be able to organize food provision to the detainees, "concludeded Camille Zonzi.
Additionally, MONUSCO and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)'s assistance has been requested by the Congolese prison administration to transport medicines for the prison medical department. The prison governor, Zephirin Mata Mbala said medicines do exist but they are blocked in Kinshasa, due to lack of means of transport.