THREE pregnant inmates who are behind bars at Chikurubi Female Prison face a frightening delivery amid a shortage of emergency services with one ambulance operating in Mashonaland province.
Pregnancy is already an anxious experience for all women who fear miscarrying, birth defects and difficult labour but far from these natural anxieties, pregnant women at Chikurubi are horrified they may not be able to get immediate assistance if their water breaks while inside their cells.
The only female prison in the Zimbabwean capital is currently home to 16 mothers, 17 babies, 28 foreigners and four juveniles including a 16-year-old girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) deputy officer commanding Harare province Elizabeth Banda admitted that the healthcare of female prison was nothing short of a nightmare.
“Our biggest challenge here is transport,” she said during a tour of Chikurubi Female Prison.
“We house all forms of women. Some are expecting mothers, but we only have one ambulance throughout the whole province. So if we have an inmate who goes into labour at night, we have all sorts of challenges,” Banda said.
She bemoaned lack of vehicles to ferry female prisoners to hospital.
“Even taking prisoners to courts is a challenge as we only have one car that is shared with Chikurubi Maximum Prison.
“So all in all, in the province we have two-and-a half trucks which are generally not enough. If one breaks down, it’s a nightmare of which one is already done.”
Banda further added that blankets and clothes for the prisoners were glaringly inadequate.
“Clothes in the same way are also a problem as well as blankets. We have children here and we have a statutory instrument to provide for children but we have not been able to follow that statutory instrument,” she added.
The absence of menstrual products which violate the basic rights of women add onto the dire living conditions of female prisoners.
“Sanitary wear is a thorny issue at this place it makes us crack our heads all the time. Even hospital fees, with the rate at which we go to hospital with our prisoners, is now beyond us because we don’t have the money. Our budget is zero from fiscus,” she said, adding:
“It’s prohibitive, for us to take money from our projects it is not adequate…We would have expected to be funded from fiscus but it’s not coming.”
Despite inadequate funding, ZPCS is currently providing empowerment programmes which include inmates receiving educational and professional qualifications.
One of the rehabilitation centres is Connemara Open Prison which houses male inmates who are allowed to go on home leave during their prison terms.
Through these programmes a Harare Central Prison inmate, Agrippa Guti, is now part of the Dynamos Football Club set up after impressing during a social match between the Harare giants and prisoners last month.
However, ZPCS wants to see the justice system doing more to support their rehabilitation programmes by offering parole.
Currently in Zimbabwe government institutions do no employ ex-convicts rendering the rehabilitation programmes being done by ZPCS academic —Farayi Machamire