Shortage of drugs strike Juba prison, crisis lurks

Shortage of drugs strike Juba prison, crisis lurks

The director of Juba Prison, Lt. Gen. Atok Atem addressing the media during the visit of the Human right committee in the parliament [credit Jenifer James The City Review Newpaper]

Juba Central Prison is facing acute shortage of medicine which could plunge the correctional facility into a healthcare crisis. 

Addressing the media on last Friday, the Director of Juba Central Prison, Lt. Gen. Atok Atem, lamented that there is a growing fear that containing communicable diseases maybe a serious challenge not only due to the drug shortage but also overcrowding.

“Without access to proper medication, the inmates are at risk of experiencing deteriorating health conditions that can ultimately lead to tragic outcomes, including fatalities,” Atem said.

Atem said this challenge poses a serious threat to the overall safety and stability of the prison environment and there is an urgent need to address it.

“Therefore, urgent action must be taken to alleviate the drug shortage crisis within the prison system, with a focus on enhancing access to essential medications and healthcare resources to prevent further health deterioration and tragic consequences among the vulnerable inmate population,” Atem said.

In an exclusive interview with The City Review on Friday, Chaplain Wori, a pharmacist in the prison’s primary healthcare clinic, said the situation is worrying because they are lacking even basic anti-malarial drugs.

“The critical issues are healthcare. If the clinic can run out of medicine, how we can serve the lives of patients here?” he lamented.

A medical doctor at the prison’s primary healthcare clinic who did not identify himself for fear of victimization said there is a possibility that the inmates are at risk of contracting diseases judging from the turnover of the patients he receives. He said he treats 30 people every morning.

He said out of these 30 patients, few were diagnosed with dermatitis, a common skin disease in the prison.

He highlighted the challenges facing the healthcare facility, one of which is a lack of detergents, which are essential for maintaining hygiene and preventing skin diseases. He said they sometimes use sanitisers but these are not effective substitutes.

“In addition to dermatitis, there are cases of scabies, particularly affecting the lower limbs and causing swelling. Pneumonia is also common, with some patients experiencing difficulty in breathing due to tuberculosis. Other reported illnesses include malaria, diarrhea, and a few cases of malnutrition,” he stated.

According to him, last month there was an outbreak of beriberi, which has subsided with fewer cases being reported in the prison.

“The prison completely lacks drugs for treating skin diseases and antibiotics; the only available medication is anti-malaria drugs,” he decried.

 Although the administrators of the prison separate the inmates with communicable diseases, this has not yet proven effective as cases of skin and airborne diseases are still rampant.