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Zimbabwe's Unity Gov't Moves to Address Food Problems in Prisons

Human rights groups have condemned Zimbabwe's prisons as hell-holes that subject prisoners to slow starvation and possible death due to poor conditions.

Responding to the shocking images that emerged in 2009 showing how Zimbabwe’s crowded prisons had become death traps, the government has gazetted a statutory instrument that sets out the daily diet to be given to inmates.

Statutory instrument 149 of 2011 obliges that on a daily basis, a prisoner should get one-eighth of a loaf of bread, 100 grams maize meal porridge, fresh vegetables, margarine, meat twice a week and milk, among other basic diet necessities.

Human rights groups have long criticized Zimbabwe's prisons as hell-holes that condemn inmates to slow starvation and possible death from nutrition-deficiency related illnesses or the vast array of other diseases that they are exposed to through unhygienic conditions in their cells.

In 2009 food rations at two Harare prisons - Harare Central and Remand Prison - were cut to a quarter of what prisoners should receive and at one stage it was revealed that there was no food left at all in the prisons.

One prison officer described their struggle for food: "We've gone the whole year in which, for prisoners and prison officers, the food is hand to mouth," the officer said then.

"We will be lucky to get one meal. Sometimes they'll sleep without. We have moving skeletons, moving graves. They're dying."

Deputy Justice Minister Obert Gutu told VOA's Blessing Zulu that the unity government was determined to change these conditions.