Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Thousands of patients with mental health issues are bound in chains and locked up in facilities across Nigeria where they are subjected to "terrible abuse," Human Rights Watch said Monday.
Islamic centers and churches in Nigeria hold thousands of mental health patients in chains, rights group says
The rights group said detention and violent treatment of inmates are rife in some state-run clinics, Islamic rehabilitation centers, traditional healing homes, and churches in the country.
Citing interviews with dozens of patients, families and staff at various Nigerian mental health facilities visited between 2018 to 2019, Human Rights Watch said patients, including children, were being forced to eat or drink herbs as part of their treatment in some traditional healing homes.
A 22-year-old woman at a Christian healing center in Abeokuta, a city in southwest Nigeria, told the rights group she had been held captive in a church for five months and denied food as part of a "spiritual cleanse" for her condition.
"I was tied with chains for three days straight so I could fast. For the three days I had no food or water. It wasn't my choice, but the pastor said it was good for me. Sometimes if they say I should fast and I drink water or take food, they (the church staff) put me on a chain," she said.
"The chaining is punishment. I have been put on chain so many times I can't count," she added.
People brought to these facilities by family members ended up being held in chains and detained for months in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, the report says.
"People with mental health conditions should be supported and provided with effective services in their communities, not chained and abused," said Emina Ćerimović, a senior disability rights researcher with Human Rights Watch.
Authorities in Nigeria have rescued hundreds of people held under degrading conditions in a crackdown on religious rehabilitation centers in recent months.
Police rescued more than 300 men and boys held in dehumanizing conditions from an Islamic school in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna in September. Some of them told police they had been beaten, sexually abused and tortured by their teachers.
Police in Kat