Sudan: MSF urges respect for medical action after violent incursion

Medical and humanitarian action needs to be respected by all armed groups in Sudan in order to preserve the safety of patients, staff and health facilities across the country, Doctors Without Borders  (MSF) said today. The call comes after a violent incursion occurred in an MSF-supported health facility in Central Darfur state that left one MSF staff member injured.

Fighting between elements of two different sections of the Sudanese security forces in Central Darfur state led to a number of armed soldiers from both sides violently forcing their way into a health facility supported by MSF in the town of Rokero on the evening of Thursday 14 May.

In the course of the dispute, gunshots were fired and an MSF nurse, caught in cross fire, as well as a man in uniform, were severely injured.

We call on medical & humanitarian action to be respected by all armed groups in Sudan in order to preserve the safety of patients, staff and health facilities.

MSF has reduced activities in Rokero to lifesaving medical care only, while we call on all armed groups, including security forces, to respect health facilities and hospitals as humanitarian spaces, and to end intrusions that threaten the lives of healthcare workers, patients and caretakers.

“These actions of the armed parties clearly demonstrate a blatant disregard for the neutrality of hospitals and medical spaces,” says Julia Paulsson, MSF’s head of mission in Sudan. “All parties have a responsibility to ensure that medical infrastructure and personnel are respected.”

MSF has engaged with Sudanese authorities at all levels, including the Ministry of Health, the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), and other security authorities, to express outrage at the event and to follow up on this situation.

“We are saddened by the incident and demand the government and entities involved to guarantee the safety of staff and patients in order for our services to continue,” says Paulsson. “MSF remains committed to continue delivering lifesaving medical assistance to the people of Rokero and Central Darfur, but there needs to be assurances that these unacceptable situations won’t be repeated.”

MSF takes the opportunity to reiterate the need that everyone, including state and non-state armed groups as well as civilians, respect medical and humanitarian action in the country.

Several other incidents have occurred in Khartoum and elsewhere in Sudan over recent weeks, including violent attacks on health workers and hospitals in the midst of fears stemming from the COVID-19 crisis.

MSF has been working in Sudan since 1978. Currently, our teams provide medical care in Khartoum, North Darfur, Central Darfur, East Darfur, White Nile, Al-Gedaref and South Kordofan states.

We run hospitals and health centres and support Ministry of Health facilities, and carry out a wide range of activities to provide primary and secondary healthcare to local communities, internally displaced people and refugees. Activities range from treating malnourished children and assisting deliveries to providing care for chronic infectious diseases like TB and HIV and neglected conditions like kala azar.

Following confirmation of the first cases of COVID-19 in Sudan in March, MSF started also supporting the MoH, private facilities and designated COVID-19 health structures with logistics, technical assistance, infection control measures and training of healthcare staff.