Six prisoners have been released at Maula Prison following a court order to set them free because of being diagnosed with multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).
Malawi Prison Services national spokesperson Chimwemwe Shaba has since confirmed the development, saying they are abiding by a court order given on February 25 this year.
He said: “We released them based on the court order. These are the six people that were diagnosed with TB last year, and have been on treatment ever since.”
MDR-TB is a form of TB infection caused by bacteria that are resistant to treatment of at least two of the most powerful first-line anti-TB medications (drugs), isoniazid and rifampin.
During a mass screening last September at Maula Prison, six inmates were diagnosed with MDR-TB.
In October last year, the High Court in Zomba gave relief to inmates diagnosed with MDBR-TB, ordering hospitals to stop returning them to prisons.
The ruling followed an appeal by six inmates from Maula and Mzimba prisons with support from the Centre for Human Rights, Education Advice and Assistance (Chreaa).
Commenting on the move by the prison, Chreaa executive director Victor Mhango said they are impressed but are still waiting for a court order to formalise the process.
“We are happy that they have been released. The court and government departments appear to share a sense of urgency and concern on the matter,” he said.
On his part, Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango, said the ministry has strengthened TB screening of inmates and staff in prisons and that those identified are promptly initiated on TB treatment where follow-ups are made until complete treatment.
A Prison and Police Cell monitoring report by Malawi Human Rights Commission states that prisons are congested, with Maula and Zomba prisons, which have a capacity of 800, keeping 2 855 inmates and 2 273, respectively. n