By: Augustine N. Myers – Reports reaching the Monrovia Central Office of the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia (WASH R&E) speak of poor sanitary condition at the Harper Central Prison in South Eastern Maryland County of the Republic of Liberia, resulting to the death of at least four inmates.
Maryland County WASH R&E Member, Arthur Douglas says the four pre-trial detainees reportedly died at the only prison due to an inauspicious sanitation situation, which continues to expose hundreds of the prisoners to serious health hazard.
Reporter Douglas further reported that four other inmates out of the eighty-eight Ivorians earlier detained at that prison were admitted at the hospital for similar poor sanitation at the Harper prison.
According to him, at the Harper Central Prison, inmates are forced in sleep on wet and cold flood, and that the crowded rooms are very stink due to urine and feces.
The inmates are said to be urinating and defecating in their respective rooms of detention due to the reported failure of the prison authority to allow them come outside to ease themselves, for fears that the prisoners might escape.
When contacted, Maryland County Public Defendant acknowledged the death of the four pre-trial detainees, and described as regrettable the poor sanitary condition at the Harper Central Prison.
Attorney Abrahim Sillah also described as dreadful the sanitary condition at the Harper Central Prison, and called for urgent action to address the issue.
The Maryland County Public Defender named the lack of mattresses, beddings and good latrine facilities, including lighting system as critical areas which need immediate attention.
He warned that in the absence of needed materials to enhance improved sanitation and hygiene, the condition of prisoners at the Harper Central Prison will remain very appalling, as they continue to be lying on bare ground, and sleeping in the dark.
Attorney Sillah further expressed fears that if no immediate actions are taken, there could be an outbreak of diseases at the prison and many lives could be lost.
Also speaking, the State Prosecutor and direct representative of the Ministry of Justice in Maryland County, Attorney Aloysius Allison, said the Liberian Government was in close collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to improve the current worsening sanitary condition at the Harper Central Prison.
Commenting on the deaths of the inmates at the prison, Attorney Allison said the loss of lives were medically established to be caused by Malaria, and that in some instances the inmates refused to take their pills.
He avoided commenting further on the issue, but said that the Ministry of Justice was in partnership with the Ministry of Health & Social Welfare through the Maryland County Health Team to cater for the health needs of the inmates.
According to him, under the partnership, health practitioners are supposed to visit the prison twice weekly to treat inmates.
But he however admitted that the arrangement has not been effective for a long time now due to the some undisclosed reasons, including the shortage of trained medical staff.
Harper City serves as the political capital of Maryland County with the area of the County measuring 2,297 square kilometers (887 sq mi).
Maryland County has a population of 135,938, “according to the of the 2008/2009 National Census”, making it the seventh most populous County in the Republic of Liberia.
Named after the State of Maryland in the United States, it joined Liberia in 1857. The most populous City in the County is Pleebo with 22,963 residents. Maryland County is bordered by Grand Kru County to the west and River Gee County to the north. The eastern part of Maryland borders the Nation of Côte d’Ivoire, separated by the Cavalla River.