May 26, 2024

Sudanese conflict increases, as MSF medical projects are hindered

Own Correspondent

As the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continue to engage in conflict for three months, widespread violence and significant health requirements remain prominent in Sudan, specifically in Khartoum and Darfur.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical projects are being hindered in their efforts to expand operations due to extensive administrative and bureaucratic restrictions. If the situation continues, our teams will be unable to deliver the necessary medical and humanitarian assistance that people urgently require.

Since the conflict started, they have taken existing projects and repositioned them or created new initiatives. Within a brief period of five weeks, our surgical teams operating at the Bashair teaching hospital in south Khartoum provided medical care to a significant number of individuals, with over 900 of them being victims of severe physical injuries.

Since the beginning of the conflict, the hospital in El Fasher, north Darfur, which is backed by MSF, has performed more than 600 surgeries for individuals injured in war or women in need of immediate obstetric assistance.

Although we operate in 11 different states, our efforts in Sudan do not sufficiently match the significant challenges faced by the population.

Despite both warring parties’ frequent promises to support humanitarian aid, as stipulated in the Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan, our concerted efforts to expand our operations have persistently faced obstacles.

An experienced emergency medical team from MSF was prevented from traveling to areas with more significant medical needs, while they were in Port Sudan. Due to the inability to travel, the team initiated water and sanitation projects in camps for displaced individuals. Additionally, they provided training for Sudanese medical personnel to handle situations involving a large number of casualties.

These small-scale activities, although helpful, had a relatively minor impact compared to the potential impact the team could have had in areas with more critical medical needs. No patients were treated by the medical personnel on the team.

Despite the evident and undeniable necessities of individuals:

In certain areas, officials have consistently obstructed the transportation of humanitarian and medical personnel and resources both within and across states. The travel permit requests submitted promptly and with complete documentation by MSF have faced delays, rejections, cancellations, or disregard, often without clear explanations provided.

Despite having obtained permits, our personnel and supplies have encountered obstacles at checkpoints where security personnel have denied entry or subject staff to harassment, threats, or even detainment.

Despite multiple attempts and appeals, the Sudanese government has issued a significantly lower number of visas than what MSF needs to bring in an adequate number of staff to address the extensive needs of the Sudanese population. Even though a certain number of visas have been granted, the process lacks consistency and cannot be relied upon.

Currently, MSF can only rely on the possibility of staff being granted a visa upon application. This lack of certainty presents challenges in effectively strategizing for expanding activities, and it could potentially put existing activities in danger. Having more personnel is essential for increasing the availability of healthcare and to ensure that medical teams, who work tirelessly, can be rotated in and out of the country.

The intention behind these actions is not certain, but the outcome remains unchanged: people’s ability to access healthcare is diminished when it is most crucial.

Both warring factions are actively causing physical disruptions to the operations of medical and humanitarian organizations. Our MSF resources have been seized, and armed factions have plundered our facilities, subjecting our staff to physical assault and severe intimidation. The Sudanese members of MSF have encountered distressing dangers during looting incidents, but have remained dedicated to offering medical assistance to their fellow countrymen.

The ongoing conflict and prevailing lack of safety in Sudan have led to a dire state of affairs, as individuals are enduring the consequences of armed clashes, air attacks, bombardments, fatalities, sexual assault, and criminal incidents. Patients who escaped from western Darfur to Chad and received medical assistance from our teams, recount a grave situation in El Geneina, the capital of the state, where individuals were shot and died while trying to escape the turmoil in the urban area.

Meanwhile, the nation’s healthcare system is facing challenges in meeting the overwhelming demands. Some regions have health facilities that are barely operational due to a shortage of staff and supplies. The presence of violence hinders individuals from accessing healthcare services, leading to delays in seeking medical attention due to the risky nature of travelling.