Sudan: Civilians wounded amid intense fighting

MSF urges all sides to ensure the safety of health workers and patients

2023 © MSF

Update from April 20: Since the initial publication of this article, MSF teams received a total of 279 wounded people at South Hospital in El Fasher There have been 44 deaths.

NEW YORK, April 17, 2023—Since April 15, intense fighting has been taking place between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces in Khartoum and other parts of Sudan. Many people, including health care workers, are currently trapped by the fighting, and the situation is dire.

Over the past 48 hours, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has received a total of 136 wounded patients at the hospital we support in El Fasher, North Darfur, 11 of whom have died from their injuries. These numbers may continue to rise as updates come in. 

Cyrus Paye, MSF project coordinator in El Fasher, gave the following account:

“The majority of the wounded are civilians who were caught in the crossfire—among them are many children. They have extremely serious injuries and, until Saturday afternoon, there was no surgical capacity in this hospital. All other hospitals in North Darfur have had to close—either due to their proximity to the fighting, or due to the inability of staff to get to the facilities because of the violence. This meant that there was nowhere for us to refer patients to for treatment. As a result, 11 people died from their injuries in the first 48 hours of the conflict. However, on Saturday afternoon, a small team of surgeons from the hospitals that had to close began carrying out surgical interventions in the hospital. So far, they have carried out six major surgeries on people wounded by the violence.

“The hospital is rapidly running out of medical supplies to treat survivors. It is running out of medicines and blood. There has also been a power outage in the city since the beginning of the fighting, and fuel supplies for the hospital generator are also running low. We have received a list of surgical items that the surgical team urgently requires and we are seeking a safe corridor in order to transport these to the hospital using our two ambulances. Due to the conflict, the [El Fasher] airport has been closed since Saturday, and it is vital that it be reopened so that we can bring in additional medical supplies and possibly an MSF surgical team to support the surgeons who are currently at work. Without these vital supplies, there will be further loss of life.”

Malaria outbreak in North Darfur, Sudan

MSF runs various projects in Sudan. In 2019, Annie Kashung, MSF’s medical activity manager, was part of a team that treated children with intravenous antimalaria drugs at the hospital in El Fasher. Sudan 2019 © Igor Barbero/MSF

Malaria outbreak in North Darfur, Sudan

Enass, a nurse, prepared intravenous malaria treatments at a ward of the pediatrics hospital in El Fasher. Sudan 2019 © Igor Barbero/MSF

Access challenges in Sudan

Elsewhere in the country, and especially in Khartoum, Darfur, North Kordofan, and Gedaref states, MSF teams face serious challenges. MSF's premises in Nyala, South Darfur, have been looted, including one of our warehouses. In Khartoum, most MSF teams are trapped by the ongoing heavy fighting and are unable to access warehouses to deliver vital medical supplies to hospitals. Even the local ambulances are being turned back. Ambulances are not being permitted to pass in order to retrieve the bodies of the dead from the streets—or to transport those who have been injured to the hospital.

We have been in contact with Sudanese medical teams in Khartoum and other parts of the country where wounded patients are being received. Many health workers have been on duty for long hours, providing lifesaving care in extremely difficult circumstances, despite the impact of the situation on them and their own families.

We are ready to provide supplies and medical personnel to key functional health facilities that need support, but it is currently too dangerous for anyone to move within Khartoum and other cities. Many people also cannot reach any of the health facilities that are open due to the ongoing violence and fear that they will be risking their safety. 

April 20 04:02 PM

Sudan: "We are still hearing gunfire from our compound"

Cyrus Paye, MSF project coordinator, describes the situation in El Fasher, North Darfur.

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Urgent call to protect civilians and health centers

MSF is making an urgent call for civilians to be protected from the ongoing indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks that are taking place. We urge all parties to the conflict to guarantee safety for medical staff and patients, so that they can access health care facilities without fearing for their lives.

We request that all parties to the conflict ensure that all health facilities are protected—including hospitals, clinics, warehouses and ambulances. Health care should never be a target.

April 21 12:36 PM

Sudan: A voice from the bunker

MSF staff member Camille Marquis describes the emergency in Khartoum

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MSF bunker in Khartum

MSF in Sudan provides lifesaving and impartial medical care to all those who need it, based on medical need alone. Currently, we cannot move due to the intensity of the conflict. We reiterate our plea for all those participating in the violence to respect medical personnel, health facilities, and ambulances and to spare the lives of civilians and humanitarian workers.