Women lack fundamentals in crisis-hit Lebanon’s crowded prisons


Nour is elevating her four-month-old daughter in Lebanon’s most overpopulated ladies’s jail, struggling to get components and nappies for her child because the nation’s financial system lies in tatters.

“I don’t have enough milk to breastfeed, and baby formula isn’t readily available,” mentioned the 25-year-old, who was detained eight months in the past on drug-related accusations.

“Sometimes my daughter doesn’t have formula for three days,” she added, as green-eyed Amar wriggled on her lap.

Lebanese authorities have lengthy struggled to take care of the greater than 8,000 individuals caught within the nation’s jails.

But three years of an unprecedented financial disaster imply even fundamentals like medicines are missing, whereas cash-strapped households wrestle to help their jailed kinfolk.

Essentials like child components have change into luxuries for a lot of Lebanese, because the monetary collapse — dubbed by the World Bank as one of many worst in latest world historical past — has pushed many of the inhabitants into poverty.

A months-long judges’ strike has exacerbated the scenario in prisons, contributing to overcrowding.

Nour mentioned she and her daughter shared a cell on the Baabda ladies’s jail with one other 23 individuals, together with two different infants.

She mentioned she generally saved Amar in the identical nappy in a single day whereas ready for her dad and mom to carry recent provides, however mentioned even they’ll “barely help with one percent of my baby’s needs”.

In a hushed voice, she mentioned the bathe water gave her and her daughter rashes, however that Amar had by no means been examined by a jail physician.

“We all make mistakes, but the punishment we get here is double,” Nour mentioned.

– ‘We want fundamentals’ –

Inmates on the jail, situated exterior the capital Beirut, spoke to AFP within the presence of the jail director and declined to offer their surnames.

Around them, within the facility’s breakroom, paint peeled off the partitions and water dripped from the ceiling.

Rampant inflation and better gas costs have additionally prevented households from visiting their jailed kinfolk repeatedly.

Bushra, one other inmate, mentioned she had not seen her teenage daughter for 9 months as a result of her household couldn’t afford transportation.

She was detained earlier this 12 months on slander allegations and has been in jail ever since.

“I miss my daughter,” mentioned the tattooed 28-year-old, as her eyes welled up with tears.

“So many mothers here cannot even see their children,” she added.

Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi mentioned in September that Lebanon’s financial disaster had “multiplied the suffering of inmates”.

His ministry has appealed for extra worldwide help for the jail system, citing overcrowding, poor upkeep and shortages of meals and medicines.

Inmate Tatiana, 32, expressed helplessness at her and her household’s scenario. She mentioned her mom had slipped into poverty and was living on simply $1 a day.

Prisoners “need basics: shampoo, deodorant, clothes,” mentioned Tatiana, who has been ready for a court docket listening to for nearly three years.

“But our parents cannot afford them for themselves, how can they buy those things for us?” she added, darkish circles lining her eyes.

– ‘Absent state’ –

Tatiana is among the many nearly 80 p.c of Lebanon’s jail inhabitants languishing in pre-trial detention, in response to inside ministry figures. Prison occupancy stands at 323 p.c nationwide.

The nation’s already sluggish judiciary has been paralysed since August, when judges began an open-ended strike to demand higher wages.

Inmates advised AFP they slept on soiled mattresses strewn on the ground in a one-toilet cell shared between greater than 20 individuals.

Baabda ladies’s jail director Nancy Ibrahim mentioned greater than 105 detainees have been crammed into the jail’s 5 cells, in comparison with round 80 earlier than the financial collapse.

Non-governmental organisations assist with every thing from meals to “medications, vaccinations for the children” and upkeep, she advised AFP from her workplace on the facility.

Rana Younes, 25, a social employee at Dar Al Amal, mentioned her organisation helps ladies prisoners get the fundamentals together with sanitary pads, and likewise offers authorized help and even funding for most cancers remedies.

She mentioned prisoners generally missed court docket hearings as a result of authorities did not safe gas or transportation for them.

Dar Al Amal has spent hundreds of {dollars} on repairs for worn-out pipes and trucked-in water provides on the Baabda jail, mentioned organisation director Hoda Kara.

“Parents can no longer help, the state is absent, so we try to fill the gap,” she mentioned.