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MSF staff threatened and beaten in Khartoum, jeopardizing care

MSF cannot continue working in Khartoum without minimum safety guarantees to protect staff from attacks.

A scene of the city of Khartoum and a billowing fire in the background.

Sudan 2023 © Atsuhiko Ochiai/MSF

KHARTOUM/NEW YORK, July 21, 2023—A team of 18 people working for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was violently assaulted by a group of armed men yesterday while transporting medical supplies to the Turkish Hospital in southern Khartoum, Sudan, where MSF provides medical care.

After arguing about the reasons for MSF’s presence, the armed men aggressively assaulted the MSF team, physically beating and whipping them. They detained the driver of an MSF vehicle, threatened his life before releasing him, and stole the vehicle.

Following this horrific incident, MSF's activities at the hospital are in jeopardy, and MSF cannot continue in this location if the minimum safety guarantees are not met. The Turkish Hospital is one of only two hospitals that remain open in all of southern Khartoum during an ongoing, devastating conflict between the Sudanese military and another heavily armed group, the Rapid Support Forces.

“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," said Christophe Garnier, MSF’s emergency manager for Sudan. "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."

MSF is one of only a few international medical humanitarian organizations still present in Khartoum, supporting hospitals in eastern Khartoum and Omdurman in addition to both hospitals in southern Khartoum.

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This incident happened less than half a mile from the Turkish Hospital, where hundreds of patients, including many children, are currently undergoing treatment.

Yesterday, MSF received 44 patients at the hospital who were wounded in an airstrike. In late June, MSF received another mass influx of war-wounded people—mainly women and children—who were injured following the escalation of fighting around the Central Reserve Police headquarters.

On a daily basis, this hospital receives about 15 war-wounded patients and provides lifesaving surgical care and vital treatment for patients with chronic diseases. MSF teams work around the clock under intense conditions to treat all those who need care, yet when they leave the hospital they risk being physically assaulted and abused.

MSF has treated over 1,600 war-wounded patients in Khartoum since the conflict began, and MSF intends to continue to provide this care. However, the security situation has deteriorated so dramatically over the past few weeks that MSF's presence in the Turkish Hospital is now in question.

About MSF in Sudan

Since the current armed conflict in Sudan began on April 15, MSF has been actively working in 12 states: Khartoum, Kassala, Al-Jazeera, West Darfur, North Darfur, Central Darfur, South Darfur, Red Sea, El-Gedaref, Blue Nile, River Nile, and White Nile. 

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