Ethiopia: News - Rights Body Reports Death of Three People From Infectious Disease At Detention Facility

Addis Abeba — Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) confirmed yesterday the death of three detainees by a pest-borne outbreak at a temporary detention center located in Gelan Kifle Ketema(district) of Sheger City, in Oromia regional state.

Following the outbreak of the infectious disease identified as "relapsing fever" in the detention center, which was caused by the spread of lice, 190 of the people who were at the center were taken to Tirunesh Beijing Hospital for treatment and received medical care at the hospital, EHRC said.

But "three people died and three more people were receiving treatment in the intensive care unit," during the EHRC's monitoring period in the first week of September.

At times the facility holds "thousands", in conditions the rights commission described that lack "hygiene" and "personal sanitary"

The detention facility, which is located in the Sida Awash district in an area commonly known as "Sidamo Awash" is being used by authorities as "temporary" holding facility for street dwellers' rehabilitation purposes before they are sent back to the different parts of the country where they originaly come from. They are often "forcibly removed" from the streets of the capital Addis Abeba in the run up to international and continental events including conferences, and are "made to stay in one place," EHRC said.

At times the facility holds "thousands", in conditions the rights commission described that lack "hygiene" and "personal sanitary" as well as the proper infrastructure suitable for the intended purpose.

The lack of complete sanitary facilities and the provision of water for personal hygiene, lack of beds, mattresses and clothes, lack of enough air and sunlight in the center are mentioned by the commission as some of the major problems endured by the homeless detainees, which include the elderly, children, women and disabled individuals.

A report by Addis Standard in January this year revealed that the streets of Addis Abeba were witnessing an unprecedented level of children systematically smuggled and forced to engage in various labor activities.

The EHRC urged that the mandatory detention of people at the center to cease immediately, and replaced by long-term, comprehensive policy response to homelessness to address the situation.

The commission also called upon the Addis Abeba city administration and relevant municipal security and management bodies to provide adequate food, water, sleeping quarters, sanitation services and medical care. This would improve conditions for those currently detained and ensure human dignity and treatment.

Forced detention of people or involuntary relocation to detention centers constitutes a human rights violation, the commission said, adding that such coercive practices should stop at once. Taking people off the streets must be conducted voluntarily, with all necessary facilities provided.

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