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Sudan: Airstrike near pediatric hospital in El Fasher kills two patients and a caregiver

The hospital has been forced to close.

White flag of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) against the sky

© Dalila Mahdawi/MSF

On the evening of Saturday May 11, an airstrike carried out by the government-led Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) landed about 55 yards from Babiker Nahar Pediatrics Hospital, which is supported by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), in El Fasher, North Darfur, Sudan.

The airstrike caused the roof of the intensive care unit (ICU) to collapse, killing two children who were patients in the ICU and at least one caregiver. The hospital has now been forced to close.

The Babiker Nahar Pediatrics Hospital was one of the few hospitals specializing in the treatment of sick children that had managed to remain operational since the start of the war. It received referrals from across the Darfur region because so many other facilities have been forced to close. Now, it too has been put out of action.  

Saturday’s incident came after heavy fighting between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and SAF/Joint Forces in North Darfur on Friday May 10, when 160 wounded people—including 31 women and 19 children—arrived at the MSF-supported South Hospital in El Fasher. Twenty-five of the wounded were in a critical condition upon arrival and died.  

The fighting on Friday took place close to Babiker Nahar and led to almost all patients fleeing in search of safety—many went to South Hospital. Of the 115 children receiving treatment in Babiker Nahar, 10 remained in the hospital on Saturday when the airstrike occurred.

MSF is urgently calls on all warring parties to protect civilians and ensure the protection of health structures as they are obligated to do under International Humanitarian Law, and the Jeddah declaration—signed exactly one year ago on the day that the hospital was damaged.

Michel-Olivier Lacharité, head of MSF’s emergency operations, gave the following statement:  

“Two children who were receiving treatment in our ICU at the pediatric hospital as well as one caregiver have been killed as a result of collateral damage following an airstrike by the Sudanese Armed Forces. One Hundred and fifteen children were receiving treatment in this hospital—now no one is.

Already, there was far too little health care available in Sudan due to the conflict. The original pediatric hospital was looted at the start of the war. The children were evacuated to a small health clinic that we rehabilitated and expanded in May and June last year. Upgrading a small health clinic into a functioning hospital is not an easy task, especially during an active conflict. It was one of the very few children’s hospitals remaining in the Darfur region.

We received referrals from across Darfur because of the lack of facilities elsewhere. Now we are one additional hospital down, just as we were trying to scale-up our response in El Fasher and Zamzam camp in response to the catastrophic malnutrition crisis there.

The 115 children in the hospital were receiving treatment for conditions such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, and malnutrition. Now, many are receiving no treatment at all. The children who were killed were in a critical condition in our ICU, but their lives could have been saved. This must not happen again.

We remind the warring parties with the utmost gravity that hospitals and health facilities must not be targeted or become collateral damage in a conflict. We also urge them to ensure that they protect civilians—something they completely failed to do this weekend.” 

Sudan crisis response