Fifty-two inmates of a prison in north-eastern DR Congo city Bunia starved to death this year because of insufficient government funding, according to the UN and local authorities.
DR Congo jails are among the world’s most overcrowded, according to the UN, with inmates in squalid conditions on meagre rations. Bunia prison operates at nearly 500% of capacity, UN figures show.
“This situation is worrying,” said Bunia mayor Ferdinand Fimbo, blaming sporadic government support for malnutrition at the prison.
President Felix Tshisekdei told his cabinet this month he would personally ensure prisons across the country did not run out of food or medicine.
The head of Bunia prison, Camille Zonzi, was quoted in a report by the UN peacekeeping force in Congo as saying government only promised at a meeting last week to cover three months of prison expenses.
Malnutrition is common in Congolese jails because food portions are allotted based on facilities’ nominal capacity, rather than real populations, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Since January, prison administrations across the country have bought food and essential supplies on credit, said Thomas Fessy, HRW’s Congo researcher.
“This tragedy could be prevented,” Fessy said. “More detainees will die if government does not act and prisons do not receive vital assistance.”