BUJUMBURA (Burundi) : The grand duchess of Luxemburg visits the central prison, accompanied by the Community of Sant'Egidio, for many years close to the prisoners, particularly children and women
2 June 2009
The grand duchess of Luxemburg, Maria Teresa, visited this morning the central prison of Bujumbura, in Mpimba, with the Community of Sant'Egidio. The grand duchess visited all of the departments of the prison lingering to talk with the prisoners and particularly with the women who are held together with their sons in a department where the Community runs a service of support to the children and to the their mothers.
At the conclusion of the visit the grand duchess expressed her thanks to the Community for the service run inside the prison and has asked "Help me not to forget what I saw today. Because in Europe we are often taken by superfluous matters and we need someone to remind us what is essential".
The Community of Sant'Egidio and the friendship with the prisoners in the prison of Mpimba, one of the main prisons of Burundi.
The prison was built in 1959 by the Belgian colonial administration, for a population of 800 prisoners. Today it counts 3,124 persons, that is, it accommodates a number of prisoners four times superior to the original capacity. Among these 86 women, 145 boys and 23 children under 5 years, children of the prisoners. They all live in terrible hygienic and health conditions, worsened by the scarcity of food, by the promiscuity and by the serious overcrowding that does not even allow all to sleep indoors.
In 2007 the Community began to visit the prison every week. A first approach was that of health education to the detained minors, later we addressed particularly to women with children. Many of them began to win the fear and to tell their stories, finding in the Community a support and a fundamental company for getting out of isolation and despair. An important facet of the work that the Community of Sant'Egidio does for the humanization of the African prisons, that consists also in care to the sick, in nutritional support and in assistance to the poorest prisoners.