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Hunger Strikes Congo Prisons

The United Nations says hunger is a leading cause of death in prisons in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In a report released this week, the UN says it found at least 50 inmates who had died of starvation in the dozen or so prisons recently visited by officials.

Luc Henkinbrant is a spokesman for the human rights division of MONUC, the UN Mission in the DRC. He says UN officials found that in the past year about 34 have died in a prison in the diamond-mining center Mbuji-Mayi in the south central province of Kasai-Oriental, eleven of those in November. He says another 11 died in the central prison of Matadi, the capital of Bas-Congo Province. He says some of the dead were common criminals, others were military men jailed for committing various infractions of the military code.

Mr. Henkinbrant told VOA reporter William Eagle that the problem is not intentional, but due to a shortage of funding for food. In the short term, the United Nations is calling on charities and international donors to provide food for the prisons. In the long run, he says prisoners can be given tools and seeds to grow their own food, or be paroled.