TB in Luzira
By Rowan Emslie
4 June 2009
Luzira Prison has recently been highlighted as a problem area for tuberculosis. Conclusive statistics on the prevalence of the disease are yet to be collected but most observers estimate that the rate of those afflicted is somewhere between 15-30% of inmates. Alongside malaria, HIV and cholera, it is probably one of the most widespread and dangerous illnesses in prisons. What makes it especially dangerous is one of the other great issues in Ugandan prisons: overcrowding.
Luzira Upper Prison was built in 1927 for 600 inmates. At the time the population of Uganda as a whole was 3 million; it is now more than 30 million. Likewise, the prison population has increased dramatically: in Luzira it has taken the number of prisoners closer to 4000. Without a gradual and well-funded series of expansions, such an increase in prisoners has led to the lack of beds, clothing, books as well as just space. Most cells contain around 70-100 prisoners all laying side by side, often with no access to sanitation, which forces them to use two or three buckets as toilets during the long hours of lock-up (4pm to 7am daily). Obviously this is a fertile breeding ground for TB and other such diseases.
APP’s work to renovate and refurbish prison sickbays is partly an answer to this problem. Not only does it allow inmates to be treated and have access to water and clean beds, it also takes infectious diseases away from the many other inmates. Unfortunately, much of APP’s work is yet to extend beyond the Luzira complex – although work began on a Level Two Health Centre in Gulu (Northern Uganda) in May – and there are still a large number of prisons without proper access to simple diagnoses and treatment for diseases like TB.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been working with prison authorities to find a way of distributing drugs and day nurses to the rest of the 222 prisons in Uganda. APP was invited by the ICRC to build the health centre in Gulu and hopes to continue working together with them and the Uganda Prison Service to help alleviate this issue further in the coming years.