August 24, 2023—Anna Bylund, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency coordinator in N’Djamena, gave the following statement today on violence affecting communities where MSF teams are working in South Darfur, Sudan:
"A tragedy is unfolding in Nyala, South Darfur, as fighting continues to rage, with targeted and indiscriminate attacks against civilians reaching catastrophic levels, and all roads in and out of the area effectively cut off by the fighting.
"Our staff, who along with tens of thousands of other civilians remain trapped in the area, have told us heartbreaking stories about being forced to bury their neighbors, family, and friends after they were killed in the last few days, during a surge in fighting in Nyala where spaces like markets and residential areas have been turned into battlegrounds.
"We have also been told that armed fighters have stormed homes and hidden inside, effectively using civilians as human shields and leaving them with no protected spaces. Only yesterday, August 23, shelling caused the death of 27 people, mostly women and children who were caught in the crossfire while hiding under a bridge. Meanwhile, Kas Hospital, which is the only hospital in the area, is now being controlled by armed groups, leaving civilians with little to no options for medical care.
"MSF recently resumed activities in Kalo Kitting Clinic, three hours' drive away from Nyala, and one hour away from Kas. But due to the volatile situation, we’re unable to provide urgently needed medical care in Nyala. We’re looking at all available options to get supplies in, but time is running out for people who’ve been wounded in the latest fighting as all roads in and out of Nyala are under siege, meaning people are unable to leave and supplies can’t be sent in. If there is no respite in the coming days, we fear for the safety of our staff and the civilians that remain trapped there, in limbo and at the mercy of the armed fighters that have swarmed the area.
"We again urge all parties of the conflict to respect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and allow people safe passage, while ensuring humanitarian workers and facilities are protected from the fighting."
MSF response in South Darfur
Since March 2021, MSF has been running a clinic in south Jebel Marra, providing free health care to people living across the mountains of South Darfur state. Patients come from more than 60 different villages, traveling for as much as 10 hours by donkey to reach the clinic. An MSF team was able to restart the clinic in Kalo Kitting at the end of July. In the first three weeks of August, the team carried out 2,041 outpatient consultations, treated 161 children for severe acute malnutrition, and provided care during two births. Malnutrition rates are very high, possibly due to the fact that the majority of the children are presenting with diarrhea, which is a leading cause of weight loss.