The few hospitals still open in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, are being endangered by the increasing violence against health workers. This is according to the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) after its employees were beaten and whipped by armed men late last week.
The MSF team was attacked some 700 metres from the Turkish hospital, one of only two operating in southern Khartoum after others were forced to close during almost 100 days of fighting between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
According to MSF, it may not be able to maintain its presence at the hospital, having continued to support it by performing surgeries and treating chronic illnesses – while also receiving about 15 people wounded by the fighting each day.
Christophe Garnier, MSF’s emergency manager for Sudan, said: “In order to save people’s lives, the lives of our staff who are there to carry out this lifesaving work must not be put at risk. If an incident like this happens again, and if our ability to move supplies continues to be obstructed then, regrettably, our presence in the Turkish hospital will soon become untenable.”
On Thursday, four MSF staff were stopped by a group of armed men while transporting medical supplies to the hospital. The organization said its team was physically attacked by the men who questioned MSF’s presence in the city.
Between 28 June and 11 July, there were at least nine attacks on healthcare workers or hospitals in Sudan, according to a report by Insecurity Insight, which tracks attacks on health systems in conflicts.
The report documented the deaths of at least eight healthcare workers during this period, as well as looting and burning of facilities.
Many of the incidents were allegedly linked to RSF fighters and occurred also in Darfur – the region of Sudan where the RSF’s predecessor, the Janjaweed militias, were accused of genocide in the 2000s.
Acaps, which monitors humanitarian crises, said West Darfur, which has been the focus of RSF violence, particularly against the Masalit ethnic group, has experienced attacks that have closed medical facilities and constrained the supply of medicines, which usually arrive from Khartoum.
The Sudanese health ministry also reported that four civilians were killed and another four injured when a military hospital in Omdurman, which adjoins Khartoum, was hit by a drone strike blamed on the RSF.