Young children accompanying mothers in Turkish prisons grapple with viral outbreak 

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Young children accompanying their mothers in Turkish prisons have been badly affected by an outbreak of the Rota virus, with some cases resulting in hospitalization, the Bold Medya news website reported.

The Rota virus, more commonly known as the stomach flu, causes gastroenteritis among children. Safiye Şahnaz, 4, who lives with her mother in Antalya L-Type Prison, was hospitalized last week after her symptoms worsened. Another 4-year-old, Cemile Azra, is also reportedly very sick, and women in her ward have been taking care of her in shifts. 

Although the virus does not typically affect adults, due to overcrowding and a lack of hygiene in prison, female inmates have also been struggling with the affliction. More than 30 women have reportedly been experiencing gastroenteritis. 

According to a report released by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu in January, a total of 520 children under the age of six are accompanying their mothers in Turkish prisons.

Previous reports have also underlined that Turkish prisons do not accommodate the needs of children and infants. Moreover, prison conditions in Turkey have been subject to criticism for many years. Activists and opposition politicians have put the issues of lack of hygiene, overcrowding, lack of food and severe mistreatment on the agenda. However, the Turkish government has not responded to these problems or offered solutions. 

The World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) said in a briefing that prison conditions in Turkey were substandard and that increasing incarceration rates have exacerbated problems such as ill-treatment and medical neglect. Turkey’s incarceration rate grew by 89.3 percent between 2011 and 2021, and it is one of five countries within the Council of Europe with the highest rates of suicides in prison. 

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