MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Sudan, Karthoum, Bashair Hospital

Surgical supply ban in Khartoum must be immediately reversed

  • Since early September, a ban on transporting surgical supplies has been implemented in Khartoum, Sudan.
  • We are fast running out of supplies for lifesaving surgeries, the majority of which are for pregnant women needing C-sections.
  • We call on the Sudanese authorities to immediately reverse the ban and allow us to bring in supplies.

An unconscionable ban that is preventing life-saving surgical supplies from being transported to hospitals in areas of Khartoum, Sudan, controlled by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), is putting the lives of hundreds of people at risk and must be immediately reversed, says Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Implemented since early September, and communicated to MSF by the Sudanese authorities on 2 October, the ban is being enforced with the intention of preventing wounded soldiers from being able to receive life-saving treatment in the country’s capital.


The ban is a ruthless tactic that will likely cause the preventable deaths of hundreds of people in Khartoum over the coming weeks. CLAIRE NICOLET, MSF HEAD OF EMERGENCIES FOR SUDAN

Such a ban not only contravenes the international laws of war – which the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces reconfirmed their commitment to in the Jeddah declaration in May – but also, by its very nature, will have deadly consequences on the lives of civilians who will also be deprived of treatment.

“The ban is a ruthless tactic that will likely cause the preventable deaths of hundreds of people in Khartoum over the coming weeks,” says Claire Nicolet, MSF’s head of emergencies for Sudan. “Two-thirds of the surgeries we carry out in the Turkish hospital are caesarean sections. In the past two months alone, we have performed 170 of such surgeries – without this procedure, many of the women and their newborn babies would have died.”

MSF_Fightings in Khartoum, Sudan
Aerial view captures the fighting and violence that erupted in Khartoum, Sudan.
MSF/Atsuhiko Ochiai

“Women in labour needing caesarean sections already have very few options available to them in Khartoum,” continues Nicolet. “If we continue to be denied permission to bring surgical supplies to our hospital, soon they will have no options at all.”

When it comes to the war-wounded, MSF treats people based on their medical needs. It is against medical ethics to refuse life-saving treatment to someone – no matter whether they have been fighting or whether they have been caught in the crossfire.

On 10 September, when Gorro market was bombed, there were 103 casualties; 43 people were killed, and 60 wounded people were treated at Bashair Teaching Hospital, including women and children. However, we had to stop providing surgery in that hospital in October because of the ban, meaning that the Turkish hospital is now one of the only facilities in southern Khartoum with a fully functioning operating theatre.

The MSF supported Al Nao hospital in Omdurman, to the northwest of Khartoum, where intense fighting is taking place.

Following two mass casualty incidents on 12 and 13 November, our teams received 128 wounded people in the emergency room of the Turkish hospital. Several surgeries have already been performed – many patients are still waiting to go into theatre. As a result, there are now not enough supplies left in the hospital to last for even a month.

If MSF is not able to bring in more supplies, the operating theatre in the Turkish hospital will also have to close its doors. There is no doubt that the death toll of this war will rise further, as women, children and men in need of life-saving surgery will be unable to get treatment.

Adding to the severity of the situation, the ban does not only impact on the transportation of supplies. Humanitarian workers – including medical personnel – are also being denied travel permits. Although there has been no official announcement from the authorities on this issue to MSF, not a single member of Sudanese or foreign medical staff has been authorised to travel to south Khartoum for work since early October. Despite the SAF committing at the talks in Jeddah to allow 90 trucks of relief supplies to travel to Khartoum, no convoys have reached their destinations to date. Travel permits for MSF trucks remain blocked.

MSF_Surgery in Khartoum, Sudan
The MSF supported Bashair hospital in south Khartoum received over 60 wounded patients and 43 deaths after an explosion in a market on 10 September

“There are MSF supplies and staff ready and waiting in Wad Madani, less than 200 kilometres from Khartoum,” says Nicolet. “The Sudanese Armed Forces are actively blocking the delivery of medical care for the people of its capital.”

“Although many departments of the Sudanese government, international organisations and diplomatic missions involved in the Sudanese crisis have been informed of the ban, they are yet to do anything about it,” continues Nicolet. “This heartless decision to leave women in labour to suffer, and for some to die, as a side effect of the inhumane policy to make wounded combatants bleed out to death, is gruesome and must be reversed.”