Gbarnga, Bong County — The Head of Delegation of the European Union to Liberia, Ambassador Laurent Delahousse, says inmates are five times more at risk of contracting COVID-19 than ordinary people.
Delahousse called on inmates in various prisons in Liberia to take opportunity of the vaccination for inmates campaign being supported by the Government of Liberia, European Union, Serving Humanity for Empowerment and Development (SHED), Rural Human Rights Activist Program (RHRAP) and partners and get vaccinated in order to keep safe.
On Monday, October 4, 2021 at the Gbarnga Central Prison, officially launching the program COVID-19 Vaccination for inmates, a program seeking to get inmates across Liberia vaccinated while in prison, the EU Head of Delegation said due to the overcrowding of prisons, inmates become more vulnerable to COVID-19 and they should therefore take advantage of the vaccination exercise.
“Due to overcrowding in prisons which is not only in Liberia as prisons are overcrowded all over the world, I come from France and prisons are overcrowded there and this makes detainees five times more at risk of contracting the virus than people outside of prisons . Vaccination is the best way to fight the virus globally”, said the EU HOD.
He said the role of Corrections is absolutely essential to the justice system, strengthening of Liberia’s democracy.
“Detainees’ rights are human rights and as we target vulnerable people for the vaccination, they should take the opportunity and get vaccinated as vaccination is the best way to fight the virus globally”, he added.
According to him people are hesitant to take the vaccine for wrong reasons.
“Some people believe the vaccine is not safe. Come on, 8 billion doses have been distributed worldwide and the vaccine has not shown any sign of risk”
He indicated that along with his wife they were vaccinated in Liberia and are very healthy saying the vaccines being administered in Liberia are the same worldwide and it is safe.
“Once people are not vaccinated, the virus will still be here. My wife and I were vaccinated here with the same vaccines being taken by Liberians and we are healthy and we are safe”, he noted.
Also speaking at the program, Rev. Samuel Sainleseh Kwaidah, Director of Prisons and Acting Assistant Minister of Justice for Corrections said the Government of Liberia is working to improve prison conditions across the country and ensure that inmates are protected against sickness such as COVID-19.
He said the conditions in Liberian prisons have improved greatly and with support from EU and other partners the situation will continue to improve.
Rev. Kwaidah said the vaccination for inmates in Prison has been ongoing in all prisons around the country with the exception of Grand Gedeh and River Gee counties where support is calling for support.
The Director of BCR said in terms of good atmosphere and care, inmates in four prisons in three counties Margibi, Bong and Nimba where the EU through share is making interventions have better environment, access to health care and other needs.
“While we are here to launch this vaccination for inmates, I want to continue to make my appeal like I did in Kakata the last time, calling on EU and SHED to extend your support in these counties to other counties, because we need you”, he said.
According to Rev. Kwaidah Margibi, Bong and Nimba prisons always have sufficient drugs supplies and the prisons are very clean and saying he hopes that the Government efforts in maintaining and improving custody, care and control of inmates can also be buttressed at other prisons around the country.
In remarks, the Executive Director of SHED, Mrs. Joyce-Queeglay Pajibo, said SHED remains grateful to the European Union and the Government of Liberia for working collaboratively with SHED for improving prison conditions in four prison facilities in three project counties.
“Few years ago, the prisons were not like this, the situation we met at the time was bad as to enter the prison at the time was very difficult but today with EU support and collaboration from the Government of Liberia through BCR and other partners, this have improved”, said Mrs. Pajibo.
She said prisons facilities in Margibi, Bong and Nimba have shown tremendous improvement.
The SHED Executive Director added “Some of you were with us in Kakata few months ago and you saw the prison condition and with the same EU funding you are today at the Gbarnga Central prison and you can see how the Prison looks like now. From here you will find yourself at the Sanniquellie prison and you will see the new shift of the prison”.
Specifically regarding the Vaccination for inmates program, Mrs. Pajibo extended thanks to all partners for the success of the vaccination for vulnerable people such as inmates.
“Precisely for this vaccination in prison program, I want to say thank you to the Minister of Justice through the Director of BCR, Ministry of Health through the Prison Health Office, the County health team here and special thanks to EU head of delegation to be here
She expressed thanks to the EU for the support through SHED to the prisons.
Mrs. Pajibo said SHED is grateful for the EU commitment to work with closely with SHED and partner RHRAP in the field, finding solutions to challenges that come out suddenly like the situation of the COVID-19 virus.
Kukatah Devine Tokpah, the head of Human Rights in Prison Coordination Platform thanked all partners for their support to the platform and promised that the Platform will continue to bring out programs that will bring relief to inmates.
He said the Platform remains open to other partners to join in improving the human rights of inmates in all prisons across Liberia.
The vaccination program seeks to enhance the enjoyment of the right to health under the thematic area “condition in prisons”. The right to health is a fundamental part of our Human Rights and of a life in dignity. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights also mentioned health as part of the right to an adequate standard of living (art. 25). The right to health is an inclusive right, extending not only to timely and appropriate health care, but also to the underlying determinants of health.
The Human Rights in Prions Platform, understanding the constraints, including the mass trooping of individuals to take their COVID-19 vaccines, discussed and agreed on the need to make the vaccines easily available to inmates.
According to Mr. Devine the Platform believes that due to the psychological impact of being kept in prison, inmates should not be subjected to the normal rigor being experienced by others in taking the COVID-19 Vaccine. It is against this backdrop that the vaccination in prison is being rolled out in these three SHED projects counties and supported by the project donor, the European Union.
The exercise will cover both the inmates and the Correction Officers at these prison facilities.
For his part, the County Health Officer of Bong County, Dr. Jonathan Flomo, lauded the European Union for her support to the people of Bong County through partnership with SHED, IRC and other institutions.
He used the time to dispel rumors circulating that the vaccines are not safe. To demonstrate that the vaccines are safe, he said he along with the county leadership took the lead by being the first persons to take the vaccine in Bong County. He encouraged inmates to take advantage of the opportunity provided them to be vaccinated.
He also used the opportunity to call for support for the prisons, noting that the wellbeing of inmates is important to the public.