Where We Work: AFRICA


Pastor Daniel Mitepa, who represents Health through Walls in Malawi, is devoted to helping prisoners inside Malawi's prisons. Of its thirty-three prisons, two are for juveniles. Some of the prisoners in Malawi prisons are from neighboring Mozambique. In addition to lecturing to prisoners about HIV and other infectious disease, he also distributes pre-enriched peanut butter which is particularly important for prisoners with HIV, AIDS, TB and now COVID-19. He also provides various supplies such as blankets, buckets of varying sizes and soap - both of particular importance now during COVID-19 and the need to constantly hand wash. Large buckets are converted into water dispensers. Since COVID-19 is now an urgent concern inside the prisons -for both prisoners and corrections officers -- Pastor Mitepa is working to distribute Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the prisons, although this is a great challenge. Pastor Mitepa also visits children whose parents are in prison.


In April 2018, HtW volunteers Dr. Marc Stern, Mark Andrews and Dr. John May taught a course on Prison Health Leadership for the International Corrections and Prison Association's African Prisons Leadership Training, hosted by Namibia Correctional Services. Prison health officials from six (6) African countries attended.


In 2017, the Minister of Justice of Mozambique invited HtW to collaborate with their prison's medical unit to help bring improvements to care and treatment. With one of the highest HIV rates in the world, Mozambique's prisons are also overcrowded and overwhelmed with medical needs including tuberculosis. HtW's Karine Duverger visited the prison housing units with officials. HtW has identified interventions to assist with TB control and treatment and currently putting together funding proposals to donors.


In 2010, Health through Walls visited Ghana Prison Services at the request of the United Nations Department of Peace Keeping Operations. Although more than 5 years had passed since volunteers from HtW had been to Ghana prisons, many of the same issues remained. With great attention to professionalism, discipline, and human rights, the agency struggles with adequate resources. For example, in the prison of Kumasi, the country's second largest city, the prison's kitchen burns large piles of wood daily to cook the food for the nearly 2,000 prisoners.

The wood is more expensive than gas, contributes to deforestation, and produces a heavy toxic smoke that affects the health of staff and prisoners. The prison is unable to fund the capital expense involved in the conversion of wood-burning to a cleaner, more sustainable bio-gas technology, so HtW has launched a campaign to assist. HtW also donated a computer, infirmary supplies, bed linens, and provides ongoing financial support for medications.


In 2009, less than 4 months after the Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations called the Goma Prison of the Democratic Republic of the Congo "Africa's worst," Health through Walls visited the prison and began a program to improve prisoner health care.

Working cooperatively with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), HtW coordinated a meeting with the Ministry of Health and local non-governmental organization to establish a plan of health care delivery for the prison. HtW provided materials, medications, food supplies, and financial support to Goma prison, and organized a team of prisoners to implement a comprehensive prison hygiene and cleaning program. HtW also assisted other prisons in the Democratic Republic of Congo including support for a clean water system. Throughout 2010, HtW supplied a monthly stipend to the local non-governmental organization, Women Doctors, to sustain the prison health and cleaning program. The effort has made a significant improvement in the lives of the prisoners and staff. Many prisoners with HIV infection are now receiving care and antiretroviral therapy.


Health through Walls works in several African countries. Our primary role is consultation and health program support. We continuously seek mechanisms of funding for sustainable interventions and long-term development. Our expertise is regularly sought by several countries.

During the past few years we have participated in prison programs in Mozambique, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In July 2013, Health through Walls provided support to the first regional conference on Prison Health in Senegal, Africa.


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With the support of Health through Walls, Anny Kahindo Muyisa, MD, of the Association of Women Doctors, runs a prisoner hygiene health program at the Goma Prison in Democratic Republic of Congo. (Photo by Robert Garner)

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