Mozambique’s Ombudsman says the country’s jails and police detention cells pose a threat to the lives and health of those held prisoner there.

The warning is contained in the annual report from Ombudsman Jose Abudo, presented here Thursday to the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.

In the most damning section of his report, Abudo says that all the prisons and police cells he visited in the period covered by the report — April 2015 to March 2016 — had serious physical problems, including leaking roofs, lack of ventilation, and toilets where the flush does not work.

In the prison in the northern city of Lichinga, the prisoners are kept indoors 24 hours a day, because the prison wall is so low that escape is feared. With no exposure to sunlight, the prisoners are in danger of vitamin D deficiency which could weaken their bones and prevent blood from clotting, Abudo points out.

In several police cells he visited in Niassa, Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Tete provinces, the floors on which the prisoners are obliged to sleep become soaked when it rains.

All the prisons Abudo visited were overcrowded. The Inhambane provincial prison, with the capacity to hold 80 inmates, held 400 persons which, Abudo says, “contributes greatly to the spread of infectious and contagious diseases, particularly where there is no separation between sick and healthy prisoners”.

Although the problem has been mentioned before, Abudo says he found several cases where mentally ill people have been thrown into jail, instead of being sent to institutions which can treat their health problems.

While prisoners held in jails run by the Prison Service (SERNAP) under the the Justice Ministry received meals regularly, Abudo found that for those held in police cells, the police were not giving prisoners any food, on the grounds that this was not covered by the police budget.

In some cases, individual policemen bought food from their own wages to prevent prisoners from starving to death.