Sudan: 15 attacks on health facilities and workers in two months |

According to WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, the Organization is following the escalation of the crisis “with great concern”.

So far, 11 incidents have been confirmed in the capital, Khartoum, and other cities.

“Most of these attacks were committed against healthcare workers in the form of physical assaults, obstruction, violent searches and related psychological threats and intimidation”said Dr Al-Mandhari.

A protester holding the Sudanese flag, in Khartoum, Sudan., by Salah Naser

At least two of the confirmed incidents involved military raids and incursions into facilities, he said. Others have included arrests of patients and workers, as well as injuries, detentions and forced searches.

“These targeted attacks on health workers, patients and facilities are a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and must stop now,” the WHO official added.

Reports of an increase in attacks come amid widespread and ongoing protests across Sudan over the full military takeover last October, ending transitional civilian power-sharing arrangements.

Suspension of services

Dr. Al-Mandharisaid is also aware of the interception of ambulances, staff and patients as they attempt to seek safety.

The UN agency is concerned about how these actions are severely restricting access to health care, which is particularly problematic with the COVID-19 pandemic and other public health threats.

The incidents have already resulted in the suspension of emergency services at some facilities. Some patients and medical staff also fled without completing their medical treatment.

Healthcare workers who have taken a professional oath to save the lives of others must be allowed to work without fear or concern for their personal welfare or that of their patients,” Dr Al-Mandhari said.

With COVID-19 still a significant threat and people at risk of diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, measles and hepatitis E, the agency says it is “imperative” that the health sector continues to operate without hindrance.

WHO has called for the immediate cessation of all activities that endanger the lives of healthcare workers and patients or impede the delivery of essential healthcare services.

The head of the regional agency also called on the authorities to enforce the Sudanese law on the protection of doctors, medical personnel and health establishments, approved in 2020, and to comply with international humanitarian law.

Patients in a waiting room at a health facility in Sudan.

For Dr. Al-Mandhari, “the sanctity and safety of health care…must be respected and remain neutral, even in a highly politicized context.”

Cases are increasing

The WHO considers the number of incidents to be very concerning, especially since the country has documented a relatively low number of incidents in previous years.

There was just one in 2020, and in 2019 – despite widespread social and political unrest surrounding the overthrow of former leader Omar al-Bashir – only seven were recorded.

Last year, the country recorded 26 such attacks, with four deaths and 38 injuries among healthcare workers and patients.

Most of the incidents were direct assaults on workers, which is an unusual trend compared to other countries.

Together with the Sudanese Federal Ministry of Health and its partners, WHO is ensuring that hospitals continue to function.

The Organization has trained dozens of doctors and medical personnel in all states. It also distributed, with the support of partners, several new ambulances.

Since late October, the agency has distributed 856 rapid response kits in Khartoum and other priority states, enough to cover the needs of 1.1 million people for three months.

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