Monday, February 2, 2009

Maafushi Women's Jail: Two months locked up with TB

An inmate in Maafushi women's jail realized she had a lump on her throat sometime in December 2008. She wasn't eating well and started to look ill day after day. After being taken for a check up by the prison authorities, the doctor diagnosed her with Tuberculosis (TB).

Then in December 2008 after she was diagnosed with TB, she was taken back into her block in Maafushi, to mingle with the rest of her 24 female block mates.

Lets see what TB actually is:
According to wikipedia's article on Tuberculosis:

" Tuberculosis (abbreviated as TB for tubercle bacillus or Tuberculosis) is a common and often deadly infectious disease caused by mycobacteria, mainly Mycobacterium tuberculosis [1]. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs (as pulmonary TB) but can also affect the central nervous system, the lymphatic system, the circulatory system, the genitourinary system, the gastrointestinat system, bones, joints, and even the skin"
"Tuberculosis is spread through the air, when people who have the disease cough, sneeze, or spit. One third of the world's current population has been infected with M. tuberculosis, and new infections occur at a rate of one per second"

"We started to ask the prison authorities to immediately provide us (all other inmates) with medical check -up when we found out that our fellow inmate had TB" says one of her block mates. "And we wanted her to get proper medical attention plus quarantine measures taken, if it was necessary" she asked. "Who wants to be infected with TB?"

Each inmate had to share a cell with another. The cells open at 5:30 am and closes it at 11pm. During that time, they eat, drink, mingle together. There's no restriction until the deadline of 11pm, but otherwise the cell mates are in contact almost all of the time.

After relentless pressure from the inmates and the unfortunate inmate's family, they moved her out of the prison block on 24th of January 2009 for proper medical attention. The next day, which was 25th January 2009, the other inmates wrote a formal letter to the Corrections department, pleading to provide all the remaining inmates with a medical check up to make sure that none of them are infected with TB as well. They had been asking for this since they found out that one of them had TB in December 2008, nothing had been done about it.

They were forced to live with TB for almost two months.

The women inmates of Maafushi jail are still waiting for response from the authorities to their letter.

"Oh, they never reply anyway" says an inmate. "We've sent many letters as such but they never get answered" she retorts.

Many of the inmates are mothers themselves. They have a right as human beings to know if they are infected with a dangerous disease such as TB, after been forced to live with it for almost two months. Lets say hypothetically, you had a choice and your bed mate was suffering from TB, will you still sleep with him? But unfortunately in this case, these women did not have that choice.

While that letter awaits at who-ever's office desk at the department of corrections, many people are giving a deaf ear to this issue. Because criticizing the prison is criticizing the government. And criticizing the government is criticizing Anni and MDP, which will also give DRP something to rant about. Even Minivan news did not respond when they were made aware of this issue at the women's prison, would that have happened while Maumoon was in power I wonder.

The letter the women inmates sent could just get shredded like the rest of their "stupid" letters. It would be an easy job to be at the corrections department and shred the letters the big man at corrections dumps out, while the people of the Maldives pays you to do it. The point is the plea of the inmates still remains. All the women inmates at Maafushi is only just asking the Correction department, or whatever agency that would help them to not give them a deaf ear. They are only asking for being given medical check up whether they have the TB virus or not. They just want to know whether they are safe to go near their children, mothers, father, husbands or friends.

If anyone knows a way to help these poor inmates at the women's prison please do something about it. Go a few degrees, pull a few strings or speak to someone who has the right influence at the right place. I assure you all, I'm doing what I can.