Authorities in Moroto Government Prison are in fear following a continuous increase in the number of inmates testing positive for COVID-19 over the past two weeks.
Sam Edotu, the Karamoja Regional Prisons Commander has told Aica that the situation is getting out of hand and his office is waiting for directives from Kampala.
On Saturday 19th September, 2020, the Ministry of Health confirmed 164 cases from the Prisons facility, rounding the toll to 194.
Mr Edotu said the Prisons administration is in discussion with the health authorities of Moroto Regional Referral Hospital on the way forward in case the situation gets out of hand.
This fear has come only a few days after 219 inmates escaped and ran to mix with the villages surrounding Mt. Moroto.
It is also feared that up to a total of 684 inmates including 219 escapees could be infected with the novel coronavirus disease.
Dr. Hans Lokale, the Moroto District Health Officer, while at a high level planning meeting held Saturday afternoon at Hotel Leslona said that results from the ministry of health confirmed 164 new cases from Moroto Prisons taking the toll to 194.
The DHO also revealed that a total of 70 community cases have been recorded in the district, posing more fears as the inmates joined the local community.
Last week, The Ministry of Health with support from the World Health Organization [WHO] and United Nations Children’s Education Fund [UNICEF], started the mass testing of 800 inmates and staff at Moroto Government Prison.
Keneth Kabali, the Consultant for Disease Control with WHO in Karamoja, disclosed that the mass testing follows the increase in community transmission infections in the sub region.
The Prison Break
Residents Sympathize With Prison Breakers In Moroto
Some residents of Moroto Municipality have confessed to have reportedly sympathized and aided the escape of inmates who broke the prison gates and made their way out with some firearms on Wednesday evening.
On consent of anonymity, some individuals told Aica that they faced off with the escapees financially and materially aided their way out of town.
According to a lady who preferred anonymity, one escapee went to her home requesting for food and money to enable him travel outside Moroto for his safety. This was at Nakapelimen Village approximately 800 meters away from the Moroto prison.
“I was in my house when he knocked and on opening, he requested for some food saying he was very hungry and asked if I could assist him with some money for transport. I gave him food and 5000 shillings because I was in fear,” she narrated.
She added that she could not report the issue for fear of being arrested as a suspect who kept the inmates who were being hunted by security agencies.
“I was afraid the police and army would arrest me to help them find the whereabouts of the rest of the escapees. This was a serious matter which would cost my life if I came out to report immediately,” she said.
In Katanga cell, about 2Km away from town, one escapee was seen holding a shoe and wearing one while moving in panic.
Eye witnesses say the man asked for financial assistance and the locals in the area mobilized quickly and even escorted him for some distance.
“He was looking too guilty but some people here collected for him some money and took him with a boda boda, one of the eye witnesses confessed.”
“They told him to be gentle, put on his shoes fully and move like nothing happened to him. They even gave him food to eat and then took him, another eye witness confirmed”.
Sophia Naleo of Singila Village in Moroto Municipality said that some of the inmates grabbed clothes of residents within the barracks and the neighboring community as they fled.
Maj. Peter Mugisha, the 3rd Division Army Spokesperson told Aica that since these people have already mixed with the communities, there is little that they can do as security agencies.
“I want to call upon the people in these communities to help us track the escapees because we are worried that most of them could be infected with the virus,” said Maj. Mugisha.
While speaking to the press on Wednesday, Frank Baine, the prison Public Relations Officer, said it was not easy to operate in Karamoja due to the nature of the area which is composed of mountains and no good access roads.
So far, only 09 escapees out of more than 200 have been captured and three were killed in a fire exchange with joint security forces that included the police, prison warders and the UPDF at the slopes of Mt. Moroto.