Nine-year-old girl, stateless, needs help for cancer treatment

Nine years ago, Malaysian couple Junaidah Jamuni, 38, and her husband Nurul Azuar Johari, 33, from Kuching, Sarawak, decided to adopt a stateless child and give her a home as her parents who were undocumented Indonesian migrants didn’t have the means to raise her.

But the kind couple were left in dire straits when the child’s birth parents ran away before the adoption process was completed.

Today, their adoptive daughter Siti Nabila is nine. Last year, she was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells in the bone marrow, making her more prone to infections.

Junaidah, a housewife, and her husband Nurul Azuar, a general labourer, want to give their child the best but they aren’t able to bear her huge medical bills from the Sarawak General Hospital which have come up to RM40,000.

And, their little girl is still stateless without the proper adoption papers that will enable her to become a Malaysian citizen even though her adoptive parents are both Malaysians.

“We live very simply on a monthly household income of RM1,500 and we also have our own five-year-old daughter to take care of. We don’t have any savings so it’s a struggle financially, ” says Junaidah.

Community volunteer Noorkamariah Mohamad (better known in as Maria), initiated a crowd-funding initiative to help the couple pay their daughter’s medical bills.

“We started a crowd funding initiative for Siti Nabila through Give Asia which will hopefully help Junaidah and Nurul Azuar with their adoptive daughter’s medical bills, ” shares Maria, who is a volunteer with Kuching Food Aid, a community-led initiative to help the underprivileged. The initiative often has volunteers sending milk powder, diapers and other essential items to the paediatric wards at the hospital for patients from underprivileged families, which was how Maria initially met Siti Nabila’s adoptive parents.

All funds raised through the crowd fund will be paid directly to the Sarawak General Hospital by Give Malaysia for Siti Nabila’s medical bills.

“It’s unfortunate that the couple has to go through this because they just wanted to help give the child a home. But their kindness left them stuck with having to pay huge hospital bills because Siti Nabila is stateless.

After just four days, the fund has received RM20,000 from kind-hearted Malaysians. But Siti Nabila and her adoptive parents still have a long and difficult road ahead of them.

“Siti Nabila doesn’t have access to many things that most Malaysians take for granted, such as free medical treatment at the government hospital for children suffering from long-term illness. That’s why we need help to expedite Siti Nabila’s official adoption and Malaysian citizenship, ” says Maria who hopes the relevant government agencies will take action on the matter.

Maria has also reached out to the Welfare Ministry of Sarawak who have visited the family recently to see what can be done to help them.

Siti Nabila suffers from B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells in the bone marrow, making her more prone to infections. Photo: Noorkamariah MohamadShe adds that Siti Nabila’s treatments will span over two years with long-term follow-up care, so her adoptive parents will face escalating hospital bills.

Because of her condition, Siti Nabila also isn’t able to attend school regularly, whether in person before the pandemic, or online now during the pandemic.

“This will affect her future because she isn’t able to have a proper education which will impact her chances of getting a proper job when she is an adult. Furthermore, without her adoption and citizenship process properly completed, she won’t even be able to get a driver’s licence, bank account, passport or many other things that we so often take for granted,” says Maria.

Maria reveals that Siti Nabila is like any other child, but because of her illness is often down with a fever.

“Every time her temperature reaches 37°C, her mother will have to call for an ambulance immediately to prevent her from having seizures, ” she says.

Even though Siti Nabila is supposed to be admitted to the hospital, because her parents can’t afford it, they’ve opted for her to stay at home and go to the hospital for her treatments three times a week. However, the parents still have to bear the transportation costs to the hospital each time.

“Junaidah and Nurul Azuar are Malaysian so their children should be entitled to free medical treatment at the government hospital, but because Siti Nabila’s adoption process couldn’t be properly completed when her birth parents ran away, they are stuck with huge hospital bills, ” says Maria.

According to her, the parents have already submitted the application for Siti Nabila’s adoption and Malaysian citizenship but are still waiting for action to be taken. Within a span of the nine years, they have submitted their application three times, were rejected twice, and the third and most recent submission was in January this year. They were told by the National Registration Department that there is “a long queue waiting to be processed”.

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