Global doctors’ association worried over safety of medics in Sudan

Saturday April 22 2023
A hospital in Sudan

A hospital in Farandalla in Sudan's South Kordofan region. WHO on April 18, 2023 indicated 16 hospitals in Sudan were non-functional due to attacks and that 16 hospitals in Khartoum and other states, including Darfur, are close to being non-functional due to staff fatigue and lack of supplies. PHOTO | AFP


A global doctors’ association has expressed worry over the safety of healthcare personnel in Sudan as war between forces led by two rival generals continues despite calls for a ceasefire.

Speaking during the 223rd World Medical Association (WMA) Council Session in Nairobi, Kenya, the WMA President, Dr Osahon Enabulele, called for an immediate ceasefire, warning that hospitals and healthcare facilities must never become targets in the ongoing conflict.

For the past few days, fierce fighting has spread across Sudan as forces loyal to Sudan's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo ‘Hemedti’ continue vying for control, leaving dozens dead and hundreds injured. In the process, there have been cases of medical facilities being targeted by military strikes.

There have also been reports of military strikes against health facilities, hijacking of ambulances while patients and paramedics are on board, looting of health facilities and military forces occupying health facilities which WMA says are deeply concerning.

Read: Thousands flee battle-scarred Khartoum

A statement released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday indicated that 16 hospitals (including nine in Khartoum) are reportedly non-functional due to attacks and that 16 hospitals in Khartoum and other states, including Darfur, are close to being non-functional due to staff fatigue and lack of supplies.


Shortage of medical equipment

Hospitals in Khartoum receiving injured people are also reporting shortage of blood, transfusion equipment, intravenous fluids, medical supplies and other life-saving commodities. Shortages of water, electricity fuel, and food for patients are also being reported.

The WHO has strongly condemned reported attacks on health personnel, health facilities and ambulances in the country. The attacks have limited access to live saving health care, putting more lives at risk.

During the WMA council session which runs from April 20 to 22, 2023, the physicians voted for an emergency resolution calling on the warring parties to respect the ethical principles of healthcare, including medical neutrality, to guarantee the safety of patients and health personnel.

Speaking during the event, Kenya Medical Association President, Dr Simon Kigondu, stated that immediate steps should be taken to ensure that healthcare personnel are not targeted or affected by the fighting, including the provision of safe passage of healthcare workers and patients where evacuation is required.

The WMA is an international organisation representing 9 million physicians worldwide, with a mission to ensure the independence of physicians and promote the highest standards of ethical behaviour and care in medical practice.

The WMA council comprising representatives from seven regions, namely Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America, the Pacific and Eastern Mediterranean, is elected by the constituent members of WMA every two years.

The council meets bi-annually to discuss and decide on important matters related to medical ethics, professional competence and healthcare for all people in the world. The general assembly, which is the supreme decision-making body of the WMA also meets annually and is open to delegations from all WMA constituent members as well as observers and other invited guests.