“women, children, and doctors caught in crossfire of Sudan’s conflict”

Do you grasp the gravity of the situation? Doctors endeavoring to save lives in the conflict-ridden Sudan have been subjected to threats via social media and phone calls.

The World Health Organisation has confirmed a staggering 25 attacks on health facilities. The most vulnerable, pregnant women and children, are bearing the brunt of the conflict under intimidation and murder. Unfortunately, there seems to be no end in sight to the almost month-long war between the military factions in power.

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The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), loyal to President Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, launched a campaign branding health workers as traitors for helping suspected Rapid Support Forces (RSF) fighters pledging allegiance to Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo. In contrast, RSF fighters have established army bases in some hospitals as the SAF hesitates to attack public infrastructure facilities where civilians may be hiding or seeking treatment.

With eight people killed and 18 others injured since the commencement of the conflict, the WHO has confirmed 25 attacks on health facilities. Despite the danger, doctors persist in their lifesaving efforts. The Sudanese Doctors Trade Union (SDTU) has pledged to remain committed to their profession’s values and traditions, providing treatment despite the semi-collapse of the health sector which has become a battlefield. However, doctors have faced direct attacks on social media and via phone calls, threatening physical harm while carrying out their duties.

Sara Ibrahim Abdelgalil, a former president of the Sudan Doctors’ Union in the UK, affirmed in an interview with News24 that doctors were not taking sides in the conflict; they work tirelessly to save lives. The indiscriminate killing of civilians was condemned, particularly given that women and children were among the worst affected in the current situation.

The National Congress Party (NCP) establishment of deposed leader Omar al-Bashir has also been accused of adding to the chaos, with hate campaigns against doctors orchestrated by some of the group’s online members, alleging that doctors were taking money to help wounded RSF militants (claims which the medical community denies).

In addition to the human toll, the conflict in Sudan has resulted in widespread looting of food aid, with around 17,000 metric tonnes estimated to be worth at least R234 million stolen. Unfortunately, an already underfunded humanitarian crisis in Sudan has worsened, with only 15% of the required $1.7 billion being availed in response to the Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan for 2023.

The statistics compiled and shared among aid agencies regarding the situation on the ground in Sudan paint a distressing picture. Over 60% of health facilities have been closed in Khartoum, with only 16% operating normally but under extreme strain. An estimated 120,000 people have fled Sudan since the conflict’s eruption on May 15, with the remaining locals internally displaced, numbering approximately 320,000, and requiring basic humanitarian assistance.

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