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Baghdad's sole nursing home a forgotten corner of city

BAGHDAD, Iraq—There's one nursing home in Baghdad, a city of 5 million people.

Only one nursing home. And it has only one nurse.

The Shamayea Nursing Home, on the eastern fringe of the teeming city, opened in the 1930s. It accepts all Iraqis, and, based on what many of its residents say, it's their home of last resort.

The nursing home cares for people without families or those whose families have abandoned them. There are 44 women and 73 men in the home, and one nurse. About 1 in 5 residents has dementia and about 1 in 10 is incontinent.

They live in 27 rooms, ranging in size from 4 by 6 feet to 9 by 24 feet. They're fed three meals and a snack daily. They socialize, but it's rare for them to have visitors.

There's a smell in the home after it's cleaned. The odor of gasoline permeates the building, because workers mix the gas with water as a cleaning agent. There are few cleaning supplies or medicines.

Enaam al Badrey, 40, is a social worker who was appointed director of the home a year ago.

"We have worked really hard to make this place better. I wish we had a place in the center of Baghdad. I wish we could open a home for the handicapped," she said recently.

The war's aftermath has kept many workers away, because the home is on the fringe of Baghdad in an area that isn't considered secure.

Most of the residents are forlorn and forgotten.

Ganeya Shnawa, 60, lives with seven other women in one room. Her husband and three children were killed in the 1991 Persian Gulf War when a missile hit her house, she said.

"I feel well here," she said. "I don't have anybody to go to, that's why I came here."

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(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): usiraq+nursinghome

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