Myanmar

UN Supports Government to Safeguard Prison Population Amidst COVID-19 Outbreak in Country [EN/MY]

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  • The United Nations is implementing activities to support the Government of Myanmar in its efforts to protect all groups of people, including persons held, and staff working, at detention facilities, from the risk of COVID-19 outbreak.

As part of actions to protect the health and safety of persons held in detention facilities and in line with the Myanmar New Year tradition, the President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar announced a pardon on 17 April and released close to 25,000 people. The pardoning comes in addition to the government’s ongoing efforts in prisons and detention facilities to strengthen sanitary procedures, screening processes and isolation of those remaining detainees or prisoners who fall ill. Ensuring early preventive measures and responding rapidly to any suspected or positive cases of COVID-19 is key to safeguarding the prison’s population. The United Nations has also joined the relevant Government authorities to support these efforts.

The UN’s Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), is working with Myanmar’s Chief Medical Officer and the Prison Department to develop both short and medium-term plans to strengthen logistics and preparedness for COVID-19 in detention facilities.

The Access to Health Fund, funded by the United Kingdom, Sweden, United States and Switzerland and managed by the UN’s Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is also supporting UNODC with communicating about the risks of COVID-19 among the prison population and procuring infection control equipment and supplies. Support includes distribution of masks, gloves, soap, hand sanitizer, thermometers and personal protective equipment. Awareness-raising activities on COVID19 will take place, as well as the sharing of information on how to maintain vital health care services such as antiretroviral therapy, tuberculosis treatment or methadone maintenance therapy within a COVID-19 pandemic situation, or when prisoners are released from prison.

UNODC has developed and distributed materials on the risk of COVID-19 and essential health information, Tuberculosis, antiretroviral therapy and overdose treatment for prisoners already released. The United Nations is also planning support for longer term mitigation strategies, such as reducing prison overcrowding, and ensuring the knowledge and resources needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in all of Myanmar’s prisons and detention facilities.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) supported the Ministry of Health and Sports and non-governmental organizations to deliver life-saving antiretroviral (ART) medicine, provided referral contacts and ensured transportation for prisoners who are living with HIV. UNAIDS also provided up to six months of medicines to released prisoners who would face challenges commuting to treatment centers at times when COVID-19 travel restrictions are in place.

“The United Nations welcomes the pardoning of deserving prisoners as part of Myanmar New Year tradition,” said the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Ola Almgren. “This also converges with the Government’s measures taken to prevent and contain the spread of the virus across various directions, and detention facilities is one of them,” said Mr. Almgren. “The United Nations reiterates our support to the Government and the people of Myanmar in responding to the threat of COVID-19 across all areas and the commitment to leaving no one behind in all of our humanitarian, development, recovery and peacebuilding efforts,” stressed Mr. Almgren.

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