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Ubumi focuses health for all prisoners and particularly vulnerable groups

Ubumi works hand in hand with the inmates and correctional staff to ensure the best results. We look for ways of identifying the ways in which inmates themselves can take ownership and contribute actively towards the projects. Our approach is to identify and make use of existing resources, both human and other forms of resources. In this way, inmates make a major contributions to our projects, and are by no means passive recipients. Volunteers make a major difference every day for the health, wellbeing and education for other inmates, juveniles and circumstantial children.

Ubumi works in 10 prisons

4 prisons in Lusaka (Kamwala Remand, Lusaka Central Male, Lusaka Central Female, Chainama East Correctional Hospital)

3 prisons in Kabwe (Mukobeko Maximum Security Male, Kabwe Medium Security, Kabwe Female)

1 correctional facility in Livingstone (Katombora Reformatory School)

2 prisons in Chipata (Chipata Male og Chipata Female)

The project for the children

Prisons hold children up to 4 years old. They are with their incarcerated mothers, and need support. The children suffer, because the Prisons Act does not address their needs, and the food they get is therefore at the discretion of the Officer in Charge at the individual prison. Often, the children have to share their mothers meagre ration. Further, they grow up in a stressful environment with little positive stimulation. Our projects set out to change that:


The staple food in correctional facilityies are nshima (maize porridge), beans and/or kapenta (little pieces of dried fish of poor quality) from the prisons, which is far from nutritous enough for healthy development. The mothers and pregnant women therefore receive a food pack from Ubumi with nutritional supplements, soap and other necessities once a month in each of 'our' four female correctional facilities (Mukobeko, Chipata, Kamfinsa and Lusaka).

We have created Play Houses or Play Corners for the children, where they can play and learn, and where the women in the prison can take literacy classes. In a stressful environment, it is of immense importance for normal child development to stimulate the children cognitively and socially through play and

The mothers and other interested women are offered nutrition and cooking courses by Ubumi.


The projects for the juveniles are about nutrition and general wellbeing and life skills development. The juveniles in the Zambian correctional facilities are aged 12-18, but may be even younger. Many are awaiting trial herewith aquittal or conviction, others are awaiting transport to juvenile reformatory institutions, and again about 150 (on average) are at Katombora Reformatory School in Livingstone (outside Livingstone in the bush).

Each facility varies a bit in terms of Ubumi activities, but in general we work with Corrections staff to ensure that we have good natured and responsible adults looking after the kids, that they get nutritional supplements, and that the youth receive the opportunities to engage in educational activities (basic schooling), sport and activities during the day. This is of course to alleviate the stress and incarceration which affect children and youth profoundly.

We have had a Danish volunteer soccer coach work with us to establish the foundation for the current and future activities in all the facilities we work in. Buster Kirchner worked with us from December 2017 until June 2018 in Zambia, where he implemented activities and skills training sessions for the youth in a number of facilities.

We have based on his work published the Inspiration Catalogue for Life skills, Sports and Activities.

The seriously ill project

Correctional facilities are heavily affected by diseases, which include outbreaks of diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS and skin diseases. A major issue is malnutrition causing deaths is lack of nutritious foods, as AIDS patients cannot take their medication unless they receive a minimum level of nutritious food. At times, serious epidemics ravage the correctional facilities, such as dysentery.

The project is multi-pronged:

- Prevention of infectious diseases through safe drinking water and improved hygiene

- Treatment and support of the seriously ill by volunteer inmates, supervised by correctional facility

  health staff

- Improved nutrition through large vegetables projects, poultry and fish projects

- Provision of basic necessities

The project for the seriously ill entails a team of approximately 10-15 volunteer caretakers, 1-2 cooks, 2-4 volunteer chlorine dispensers and 4-5 volunteer gardeners in each correctional facility. The caretakers are trained in hygiene, nursing, nutrition and the main diseases found in correctional facilities. The group is managed by an inmate with the title ‘Ubumi Inmate Coordinator’, who works closely with the correctional facility health staff to deliver quality services.

The volunteer inmate caretakers provide nursing services, incl. support to adherence to medication, washing, cleaning and feeding of patients. Ubumi delivers protein, disinfectant, soap etc. We have a system in place to prevent or stop diarrheal outbreaks before lives are lost. The hygiene measures reach approximately 7700 inmates out of the 21,000 inmates in the Zambian correctional facilities. The project specifically for the seriously ill patients is in five correctional facilities, reaching 557 patients in 2017.

Vegetable projects ensures regular provision of vegetables and fruits specifically for the ill, but also for the general inmate population. The project has a cook, who cooks nutritious meals for the patients.

The project renders important results, including improvements in health and survival. The number of deaths inside prison has reduced significantly.

Education and Reintegration

Support to the schools for inmates

Computer science is part of the Zambian schooling curriculum. A resourceful inmate started a computer lab before Ubumi started working in Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison. It needed newer printers and computers, as they were very worn out. Since 2012, Ubumi has supported the IT-lab with huge success. The inmates get to learn about computers practically, and not only through reading about it in theory. The programmes are popular and there is always a long waiting list of inmates wishing to learn more. Ubumi now has two well functioning IT labs - one in Mukobeko Maximum Security Correctional Facility and one in Chipata Correctional Facility. In 2019, we will open another IT lab in a new facility.

Together with Zambia Library Services and Game Rangers International we also provide books for prison libraries. We have fully stocked 5 libraries and partially another two (only partially due to lack of space). Another 5 are in progress.


Education aids reintegration into society following release from prison. It is vital for the individual and society at large that prisoners leave prison with options that enable them to avoid falling into poverty related crime.

Inmates taking the lead

Inmates take the lead in changing the lives of others

Inmates are far from passive recipients of outside aid. They take on reponsibility for others in many ways. There is little doubt that imprisonment is very harsh leaving many to fend for themselves. Yet, care comes in different shapes. It can be the prisoners who share their food. Prisoners who help the most vulnerable with their own small means.


But this is not the only way prisoners work actively to improve the lives of their fellow inmates. Schools are run by inmates, serving as teachers. Inmate Psycho-social Counsellors are educated to support inmates who have problems.

In our project for the ill, volunteer inmates lead and support the project as coordinators, gardeners, cooks, chlorine dispensers and importantly as caregivers for children and patients.

On the photo to the right you see a group of our amazing volunteers in one of our facilities. Unfortunately, we are not able to show pictures of their faces.

Mental health

The situation of mental health in prisons is double bound. Persons with mental disorders are overrepresented in crime statistics and thus vulnerable to imprisonment, which alone contributes to high levels of mental health problems in prison. At the same time, prisoners are particularly vulnerable in terms of risk of developing mental illness due to imprisonment alone. Incarceration is extremely stressful and generally detrimental not only psychologically, but physically and socially as well. There are factors in many prisons that have negative effects on mental health, including: overcrowding, various forms of violence, enforced solitude or conversely, lack of privacy, lack of meaningful activity, isolation from social networks, insecurity about the future (work, relationships, etc.), and inadequate health services, especially mental health services, in prisons

In Zambia, certain categories of mentally ill (some patients with schizophrenia etc.) prisoners (named HEP – His Excellency’s Pleasure) will be sent to a mental health hospital, but many remain in prison for a long time, awaiting transfer, but others remain in prison despite being obviously very ill. In recent years, Correctional Services has employed at three health staff with competence in psychiatry in at least two different prisons (Two psychiatric nurses and one clinical officer specializing in psychiatry). The Service however is limited by resources and challenges relating to health systems management. 

Ubumi is committed to researching the area and making concrete recommendations and interventions.

In 2019-2020 we have implemented a project on capacity building work with both staff and inmates, including training health staff on basic knowledge and skills to identify and treat mentally ill. Our inmate volunteers, who care for the ill, will equally receice a training. The focus of this training will be basic knowledge and psychosocial support for for the mentally ill and the vulnerable, including the seriously ill.

We also provide nutritional support to Chainama East, which holds a number of inmates deemed mentally ill. Here we provide supplements for the seriously ill, as well as hygiene materials. We also have a vegetable garden.

National Coordination, Partnerships, Capacity Building

Ubumi participates in the Prisons Health Advisory Committee, a national level coordinating body, chaired by Zambia Correctional Service. The PHAC meets monthly to discuss issues, share experiences and optimise efforts. Ubumi contributes to the annual work plans and strategic work in general

. We also participate in the annual PHAC retreats, where we work actively to set the agenda with the aim of improving coordination, transparency and collaboration between the various institutions, such as government agencies, partner organisations and the Zambia Correctional Service-

Additionally, we collaborate closely with several Zambian-based organisations to coordinate and optimise interventions.

The Ubumi Model

Ubumi works based on some basic principles outlined below:

  • A holistic and strategic approach to problem-solving designed to the individual setting
  • Inmate empowerment through project management (volunteer inmates implement and manage the project, supported by health staff, partner NGO’s, Ubumi and Corrections Management)
  • Volunteerism
  • Inmate skills building – all volunteers receive basic education/skills development training within farming, nursing, cooking or similar, which will benefit the project inside prison, but also the individual inmate upon release
  • Staff support and commitment for health through collaboration and capacity building
  • Help for ’self-help’ – vegetable gardens, poultry and fish projects create the opportunity for sustainable provision of foods
  • Strong checks and balances for good management

Benefits of the Ubumi Model

  • Improved health and conditions for the ill, the children and other vulnerable groups specifically, but also for the general prison population
  • Skills-building and education of inmates
  • Capacity to address and manage projects
  • Commitment and support by staff
  • A sense of meaning and purpose for the inmates (in contrast to the meaningless existence in prison)
  • A sense of contributing positively to other people’s lives – for both staff and inmates