Rising food prices have forced some suppliers to terminate their contracts with Malawi Prison Service, worsening the food crisis in the facilities in the process.
Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and
Assistance (Chreaa) has since lobbied authorities to consider general amnesty to decongest the prisons and ensure the remaining inmates have good nutrition.
In an interview yesterday, Prisons national spokesperson Chimwemwe Shaba said they were trying their best to provide food to inmates across the facilities.
He disputed assertions that some inmates have walked to freedom due to lack of food.
“There is no one who has been released due to hunger. The law does not warrant that. We do not have such a case at any of our facilities,” said Shaba.
In a separate interview, Chreaa executive director Victor Chagunyuka Mhango said President Lazarus Chakwera’s recent general amnesty where hundreds of prisoners were pardoned helped to decongest the prisons.
However, he observed that it was not enough to help the prison facilities to manage the food crisis.
Mhango, whose organisation fights for the rights of prisoners, said: “Prisons are struggling on food because most of the suppliers have stopped supplying. At the time they were budgeting, the price of maize was K15 000 per 50 kilogramme bag, but now the same bag is three times that price.”
He said government should consider raising the ration budget for the prisons during the Mid-Year Budget Review Meeting.
President Chakwera has been pardoning prisoners, including during Easter in April this year when 200, including politician Uladi Mussa, were pardoned.
The list also included Mussa John, a Blantyre-based teenager who was convicted and sentenced to three years for being found in possession of 134 kilogrammes of Indian hemp.
Earlier t his year, a Parliamentary Committee on Social and Community Affairs report on the food crisis in prisons noted that reduced food rations in the 2022/23 National Budget could be the cause of a crisis which has seen one prisoner dying of malnutrition.
The report said food ration per prisoner in the country was pegged at K14 381 per month, which translated to K479 per prisoner per day, but in the 2022/23 financial year, Prison Services was allocated K217 per prisoner per day.
Following the nutrition crisis last year, the Malawi Human Rights Commission asked the Prison authorities to comply with international obligations that guarantee prisoners’ nutrition.