Egypt NGO warns of scabies outbreak in notorious prison

Egypt NGO warns of scabies outbreak in notorious torture prison
3 min read
22 August, 2021
The Egyptian Network for Human Rights have warned that the health of prisoner in Al-Aqrab prison is steadily decline, and that they are at real risk.
Skin diseases are spreading quickly among the inmates [Getty]

The Egyptian Network for Human Rights has reported that prisoners held at Al-Aqrab High Security Prison 1 and 2, also known as the Scorpion prison, are experiencing a significant increase in skin diseases. 

According to the network, the rise in cases among prisoners is due to a lack of exposure to the sun, a lack of hygiene in the prison and the deliberate neglect of detainees by the prison administration. 

"The spread of scabies, psoriasis, tinea, and fungi comes in conjunction with the continued failure of the administration of Al-Aqrab 1 and 2 prisons to prevent the entry of hygiene items, general medication, and medicines to protect against skin diseases in particular," the Egyptian Network for Human Rights said.

"Additionally, the high temperatures in the air in the summer, and the structural nature of the prison cell’s concrete walls, as well as the high humidity inside, all contribute to the spread of infectious skin diseases among detainees," the NGO continued. 

The rights group has accused the Egyptian authorities of intransigence on the matter and compounding the issues of prisoners. 

It warned that the combination of poor hygiene, a lack of access to personal cleaning supplies and the neglect of detainees by the authorities risked creating a serious health disaster if left unaddressed urgently.

The NGO described how the prison cells in Al-Aqrab Prison 1 receive no sunlight or fresh air and that the only opening in the cell is a tiny hole through which the detainees' food is delivered. 

"It's the only source of ventilation, but it opens onto damp passages with an unbearable musty smell."

Furthermore, detainees are given just a single bar of soap, which must last for several months. 

The rights organisation described the practises at the prison as "a slow, premeditated murder", explaining that over the past eight years, the authorities at the prison have engaged in a systematic operation to kill the detainees, who number over a thousand. 

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The continued denial of prison visits prompted some prisoners to begin a hunger strike, which started on 6 August. 

The striking detainees are demanding that visits to the prison be allowed and that they are granted access to exercise, sunlight and fresh air. 

The Egyptian Network for Human Rights have branded to actions of the Egyptian authorities at Al-Aqrab High Security Prison 1 and 2 as "torture" and have called on the Egyptian Public Prosecutor Counsellor Hamada El-Sawy to take action and prevent further abuses.