Babies and toddlers incarcerated with their mums in Zambia released from prison!

We are grateful for the generous support we have received for our 'Babies in Prison' project, which allowed us to launch a new ministry to help babies and toddlers who live with their incarcerated mothers in Zambian prisons.  In Zambia these children are referred to as "circumstantial children".

We are thrilled to share that this issue has reached the attention of the President of Zambia himself. He recently granted clemency and freedom to 45 imprisoned mothers who have young children, as part of his yearly 'Presidential Prerogative of Mercy' (similar to Presidential pardons in the USA). "These children will hate us and society when they grow up. Let us find homes where they can be with their mothers," President Hakainde was quoted as saying.

The Zambian government's focus on this issue is a huge answer to prayer. In Zambia, mothers of children aged 4 or younger who are sentenced to prison often take their babies or toddlers with them. These children then spend their most crucial years in harsh prison conditions, with no specialised childcare facilities, poor hygiene, no pre-school education, and no toys or stimulation.

Our submission to a sub-committee of the Zambian Parliament

In 2022, a sub-committee of the Zambian Parliament invited Kids Alive to submit our recommendations on the issue of mothers and children in prison. We suggested that Zambia should adopt non-custodial sentences for mothers who committed non-violent crimes. We also suggested that toddlers who were not breastfed, typically aged 3 and above, should be taken out of prison and placed in families or childcare facilities. We are happy to report that these suggestions have been largely accepted.

We were particularly delighted when the President himself recently pardoned 45 mothers in prison, as it shows that the issue is being addressed and resolved at the highest level. There is still much work to do, as some children remain in Zambian prisons without any specialised childcare, but with your support, we are making great progress.

Sharing the gospel in prisons

Our in-prison guest services continue to flourish, as we witness some of the mothers and their fellow inmates come to Christ. We are amazed by their openness to the gospel and ask for your prayers that this aspect of our ministry keeps growing and that we help many become long-term disciples.

We collaborate with Zambia’s Prison Chaplaincy Service to provide ongoing spiritual guidance.

The mothers appreciate the quarterly support packs of hygiene products, toys and diapers. These packs make them feel valued and important, and motivate them to pursue the changes they need for a better life.

Recently, Zambia has faced a cholera outbreak (a bacterial infection caused by contaminated water or food) and we were concerned about the children in the event it reached the prisons, so we were pleased when the authorities allowed us to provide disinfectant and materials to prevent it. There have been no cases so far.

We had to wait for some time before the authorities agreed to a memorandum of understanding that allowed us to enter the prisons. We are very grateful that our efforts are now paying off.

Caring for the older siblings and families

Finally, we would like to also thank you for enabling us to serve some of the older siblings and their families while their mum is in prison. There have been some really heart-breaking cases where older siblings have been neglected or even abandoned. 

One such case involved a pair of identical twins who the authorities referred to us. Their mother had pretty much abandoned them, as concerned neighbours reported the case to the police. As a result she was sent to prison. The authorities came to us knowing that we serve families where mums have been incarcerated.

The twin boys are now at our Chikondi Residential Support Centre in Lusaka, where they arrived with many behavioural issues caused as a result of trauma. Our psychotherapists prepared a therapy plan for them that included play therapy, counselling sessions and coping strategies. They have also been enrolled into a nearby school to help them interact with other children and develop their cognitive abilities.

The boys have since improved substantially. They fight much less often and are better able to relate to others. They are also able to pray on their own, as well as smile and play. They have opened up to our team about how hard life was for them and we will continue to support them as we look for a suitable loving home for them. We pray that this will one day be with their mum, when she is fully rehabilitated and released from prison. 

This project owes its success to our amazing supporters, who made it possible from the start. We are so grateful for helping us make this happen!

“I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ” Matthew 25: 36-40

Posted by Lynne Edmunds on March 11th 2024

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