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Hospital closure in Sudan's North Darfur imperils lives

By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-05-15 09:25
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An internally displaced woman collects aid at a camp in Gedaref, Sudan, on Sunday. AFP

Babiker Nahar Paediatric Hospital in Sudan's city of El Fasher has been forced to close its doors after an airstrike damaged the roof of its intensive care unit, putting the lives of thousands of people who live in and around the city at stake.

The pediatric hospital, which is supported by Doctors Without Borders, has been the only working hospital in North Darfur state following the closure of many others in the region due to the escalating violence.

Martin Griffiths, the United Nations emergency relief chief, warned that Sudan is at a tipping point, noting that El Fasher is home to about 800,000 people.

"Countless lives are at stake," he wrote on his X account. "We have told all the parties how they should protect civilians from this carnage. We can now expect them to do what the world and international humanitarian law expect."

The airstrike, carried out by the Sudanese Armed Forces on Saturday, landed 50 meters from the hospital and the destruction of the ICU roof claimed lives of a caregiver and two children who were receiving treatment.

Some 115 children who had been admitted to the hospital were evacuated to a small health clinic that was revamped and expanded in May and June last year.

The hospital called on all warring parties to protect civilians and ensure the protection of health structures, as per international humanitarian law.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, called the airstrike in the vicinity of the pediatric hospital as horrifying.

"We again urge all parties to protect civilians, health workers and health facilities. We urge immediate, safe and sustained access to humanitarian aid. It's high time for peace," he wrote in his X account.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said humanitarian access into El Fasher has been severely constrained following the disruption of the Kosti supply route since mid-December 2023.

Increased costs

The Europe External Programme with Africa, a Belgium-based Centre of Expertise, said damage and looting of pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies have disrupted traditional medicine distribution channels in Sudan, leading to the proliferation of counterfeit and expired medicines, as well as increased costs.

According to the UN, at least 27 civilians were killed and about 130 injured following the renewal of conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces in El Fasher.

The International Organization for Migration data indicated that about 570,000 people have been displaced in North Darfur state since mid-April 2023 and 6.7 million have been internally displaced, while 1.8 million have fled across the country's border.

The hunger levels in the country are alarming, with almost 25 million people across Sudan in need of food aid, while 17.7 million are facing acute food insecurity, figures from the UN indicate.

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