GCI Reports: Tuberculosis Scare in Kumba Prisons; Three Deaths in 72 hours

Two Nigerians and a Cameroonian have died in the Kumba Prison within seventy-two hours. Prison authorities, who reluctantly admitted the deaths, said the three died from tuberculosis although they admitted that no autopsy was carried on the corpses to establish the exact cause of death.

The Prison authorities refused to give good information about the deaths but one of them died on Saturday, August 5, 2006, while the two others died between Sunday and Monday, an autonomous prison source told Global Conscience Initiative on Monday evening, stating that the first death had already been buried.

The prison superintendent, Mrs. Kekay Florence Mbong, told GCI interns from the Universities of Buea and Yaounde that they knew the cause of death, adding that the deceased persons came to the prison already affected with the disease. She said the prison budget for medi-care was too small and that the use it to provide basic first aid drugs for fever such as paracetamol and nivaquinne.

She said sick inmates in the prison were rarely taken to the hospital unless they or their families have money and contact the prison authorities. A deputy superintendent, Mr. John Bongwen, corroborated the prison boss and added that very sick inmates are often kept in isolation in a room to face their destiny.

When asked if Mrs. Kekay did not think that the sudden deaths could be indicative of an epidemic that could be diagnosed and stopped if an autopsy was conducted, the prison boss said the hospital usually rejected the corpses because there is no one to pay the mortuary bills. She also said that they have contacted the District Medical Officer to vaccinate all inmates and officials of the prison against tuberculosis.

While some warders have expressed fears Mrs. Kekay said she was not very perturbed about the deaths because according to her, the prison, with more than four hundred inmates instead of 250 at the most, was bigger than many villages and that people still die in this villages regularly.