The Gambia has recorded 9 cases of COVID-19 out of which two are local transmission and one recorded death. Though the rate of transmission is apparently low, there is fear that the infected individuals had multiple contacts at home, churches, mosques and medical facilities and that there will be more cases as a result of local transmission. The Prisons Service is a key area of immediate concern and potential epicenter for the spread of the Coronavirus. The Gambia has 3 Prison facilities: Mile 2, Central Prison (Banjul), Jeshwang (Kanifing) and Janjanbureh (Central River Region).
Mile 2 is the largest and most populous facility and includes a dilapidated medical facility as well as some rehabilitation and training programs. The Remand Wing of Mile 2, as of 31 March, has 176 adult male detainees and 8 adult female detainees in detention. The Remand Wing for men is overcrowded with up to 11 inmates sharing cells designed for 6-7 prisoners. The congestion, restricted movement and derelict sanitation facilities increases the risk of the virus spreading not only amongst the prisoners but to the prison personnel and their families. Some of the prison personnel reside within Mile 2, however, a number do return to their families and communities risking the spread of the virus outside prison walls and into family homes and communities. There is clear and immediate need to address the high risks associated with the prisons.
In an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus, the UNDP Rule of Law (RoL) project is collaborating with the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI). The Gambia Prisons Service, the UNDP RoL project and GCCI are working together to mitigate the high risks presented by overcrowding and poor hygiene and sanitation facilities in the prisons. To address the lack of sanitation facilities, GCCI will provide and install 100 to 200ltrs capacity of 10 hand washing stations in Mile2 Prison. UNDP has handed over a 30-seater bus to the Prison Department to enable the safe transportation of health workers and Prison personnel to and from Mile 2 Prison facility. This is done in the framework of the partnership with the GCCI on improving the conditions and preparedness of the detention facilities.
The GCCI conducted a prison visit with Director General Ansumana Manneh of the Prisons Service to assess the prisons’ priority health and sanitation needs. GCCI and the UNDP are working in partnership to mobilize additional resources to effectively respond to the crisis. The GCCI has proposed to support the Prison with piped water, improved kitchen facilities, kitchen supplies and support the construction work at Jeshwang Prison. The UNDP-ROL is working with Gamworks for the rehabilitation of the Mile 2 sanitation facilities and has requested protective gear (Hazmat Suits) 30 for the medical and 70 to the frontline and Prison personnel, Protective Gear for Prisons (Masks & Gloves): for 100 personnel at the Prisons facilities. GCCI and UNDP RoL regularly meet to update on progress and prioritize ongoing needs.
The successful collaboration between UNDP and GCCI, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis, has brought new ideas and innovation to addressing the challenges faced by justice institutions. It is hoped that this partnership will serve as a model and encourage greater engagement from the private sector for the benefit of the public.