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Woman locked for 30 years

Felix Chaudhary
Friday, June 14, 2013

A NADI woman who has been locked in a shed for close to 40 years will finally receive long overdue treatment at a health or mental care facility.

The Ministry of Health has confirmed officials are discussing whether to admit 49-year-old Nur Nisha to the Lautoka Hospital or the St Giles Hospital in Suva for psychiatric care after her case was highlighted in the New Zealand media two days ago.

Nadi Disabled People's Foundation president Kitione Waqanisau, who donated a wheelchair yesterday to assist with her care, said the conditions under which Ms Nisha lived was the worst he had ever seen.

"She lived in conditions which were far from humane," Mr Waqanisau said.

"First and foremost, she has a right to decent living. And this is something that needs to be stressed to all families who are tasked with taking care of people with mental and physical disabilities.

"There needs to be more awareness on the issue and there also needs to be some sort of pathway to government assistance provided especially for those who have very limited or no income at all."

Health Ministry spokesman Shalvin Deo said contrary to media reports, Ms Nisha had been receiving regular visits and treatment from doctors and nurses before the decision to move her to a facility was finally made yesterday.

"It's not that her case being highlighted in the New Zealand media has prompted us to do something," Mr Deo said.

"Nisha has been receiving regular care and medication for some time.

"Right now, we are trying to assess what type of treatment is urgently needed - whether it's psychiatric or medical. And based on this, she will soon be moved to either the Lautoka Hospital or the mental health facility in Suva."

When The Fiji Times visited the woman at her Navakai home yesterday, she was found naked and squatting on the concrete floor of a two-square metre shed that served as her sleeping quarters, dining room, toilet and shower.

She was covered in a blanket.

The decrepit condition of what had been her home for decades was almost impossible to believe.

A plastic pipe on the floor served as a makeshift toilet, from which emitted the overpowering stench of raw sewage.

The roofing iron shed had no ventilation or windows.

When asked about bedding, family members and neighbours said there were none.

"If we try to put clothes on her, she tears them off and tries to walk around the settlement naked," said elder sister Nur Jahan.

"And we are afraid that if we put her on a bed she may fall and hurt herself, that's why she just sleeps on the floor."

According to Ms Jahan, her younger sister had become violent and uncontrollable when she was about eight years old and her condition worsened over the years.

Neighbours at the settlement said Ms Nisha's family had begun locking her inside the shed after she tried to break out of the family home on a number of occasions.

"Her elder sister is the only one that looks after her by washing her down with a hose-pipe and feeding her," neighbours said.

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