COVID-19: UNODC supports Nigeria Correctional Service on campaign against spread among inmates

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To curtail the spread of coronavirus among inmates in Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS) centers, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has supported the NCS in raising awareness about the COVID-19 among prisoners across the country.


The UNODC expressed concern that prisoners are particularly vulnerable to be infected by the pandemic disease if adequate measures are not put in place.


The organisation, in a statement by Sylvester Tunde Atere, Outreach and Communications Officer of the Nigeria Country Office, noted that once the virus reached inside detention facilities, “controlling it becomes difficult as social distancing options are limited, in particular when correctional facilities are overcrowded. 


“Also, prisoners due to their poor health profile are more likely to develop severe symptoms.” 


According to him, confirmed COVID-19 cases amongst prisoners and/or prison officers have been reported in many countries, including Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Italy, the Netherlands, Pakistan, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Moldova, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

 
Atere said this number, however, is almost certain to increase in the future.


“Following international good practice, the Federal Government announced on 9 April 2020 the early release of 2600 inmates serving sentences for minor offences or whose prison terms were about to expire with a view to reducing overcrowding which has been plaguing Nigeria’s correctional system for decades. 


“Recent prison riots across the globe have shown that being infected is not the only COVID-19 related risk prisoners and staff are facing. Misinformation and misconceptions about the virus cause stress that can lead to panic, aggression and eventually violence,” he said.

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Concerned by the vulnerability of inmates and to complemente the laudable efforts of NCS, Atere said the UNODC has been cooperating with the prison service in the production of information materials for staff and inmates to provide basic facts about the virus as well as how to protect oneself and others. 


“The materials have been produced in in English, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo and will be disseminated across the 244 Custodial Centres in Nigeria,” he said. 

 
Receiving the materials on behalf of the Nigerian Correctional Service, the Comptroller General,  Ja’afaru Ahmed, stated that the noble donation would assist the service in its prompt response to curtail and control the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the service maintains its zero COVID-19 related deaths. 


“At this period of health challenge, any effort made to make life easier for others is appreciated,” he said.

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