El Fasher, Darfur: Hospital deaths mount as Sudan’s civil war intensifies

Daily News Egypt
9 Min Read

Fighting between rival groups in Sudan’s civil war in the battle for control of the city has recently intensified. El Fasher is the last major urban centre in Darfur that remains in the hands of Sudan’s army. The army has been fighting the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) for more than a year, in a civil war that has killed thousands and forced millions from their homes.

 

The army remains in control of El Fasher. The city has become a refuge for people displaced by fighting in other areas. On 10 May the RSF intensified their assault on the city, in what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called “an alarming new chapter” in Sudan’s conflict.

 

MSF said one of its hospital was struggling to cope with the increased casualties. South Hospital had treated 979 casualties in just over two weeks, the charity said on Sunday. 134 had died, “a sign of the violent intensity of the fighting”, it added.

 

The medical director of El Fasher’s government-run Saudi hospital told the BBC the situation was “terrible”. “Since the early morning, the RSF began violent artillery shelling of the city, targeting residential areas, markets, and hospitals,” Modther Ibrahim Suliman said. The Saudi and South hospitals are the last functioning in the region. The Saudi Hospital was previously shuttered by the violence but it partially reopened to treat emergency cases.

 

Supplies at the hospital are running low and will last barely a week, the UN said. MSF said it treated more than 900 casualties in the past two weeks.

 

El Fasher residents say that access to food and water has become increasingly difficult. The RSF has been attacking the city from three sides and blocked all supply routes. Despite the hardships, many residents in the city are not leaving their homes because of the fighting, even for emergency medical care. Journalist Mohamed Zakaria said he had no plans to flee. “There is no place to go to… the road is very difficult and dangerous right now”.

 

Earlier this week, a UN expert warned civilians in El Fasher were being targeted because of their ethnicity. Special adviser Alice Wairimu Nderitu added that the Darfur region as a whole was facing a growing risk of genocide as the world’s attention remained focused on conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza.

 

War erupted in the East African nation on April 15 last year, when the RSF militia and Sudan’s army turned on each other. That followed months of talks over merging their forces and transitioning the mineral-rich country toward democracy. The fighting has killed almost 15,000 people and left half of the population of 50 million in need of food assistance. Some 11 million are displaced internally, and the capital, Khartoum, lies in ruins.

 

The UAE is a key backer of the RSF, supplying it with weapons and funding, according to a report by United Nations investigators seen by Bloomberg in January. The US is engaged in talks with Emirati officials about their role in the war, while the UK has initiated discussions on Sudan at the UN Security Council in New York. Those moves have irked officials from the UAE.

 

Last month, UK Deputy Foreign Secretary Andrew Mitchell told Channel 4 News that his boss, David Cameron, had raised the issue directly with the UAE. “They must not allow arms to get into this conflict — because if they do it will damage them, as well as everyone else. So it’s a message which Britain is putting very forcefully,” Mitchell said.

 

The UAE affirmed its “categorical rejection” of the allegations in a statement on Tuesday, saying the country was engaging with the US and others to work for a settlement. “This dissemination of disinformation and false narratives by a warring side of the conflict after more than a year of this crisis aims to only deflect responsibility and undermine international efforts to address the humanitarian crisis in Sudan,” the UAE said.

 

 

At least 134 people have been killed in the past two weeks as a result of recent escalations in the ongoing conflict between Sudan’s military and paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Doctors without Borders reported Sunday. Doctors without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), said, “We have now treated 979 casualties since the fighting began over two weeks ago, and the death toll has reached 134 – a sign of the violent intensity of the fighting.”

 

The loss of life is a result of escalated conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group aided by Arab militias known as Janjaweed. The conflict began in April 2023, when tensions between the two groups boiled over in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. Over a year later, the fighting has anchored itself in el-Fasher, the provincial capital of North Darfur and the military’s final stronghold. The abhorrent humanitarian crisis that grips Sudan continues to leave a pathway of displacement and loss of life in its wake.

 

USA executive director Avril Benoît says, “Our medical teams on the ground are providing emergency medical treatment, carrying out trauma surgery and caesarean sections, and running mobile clinics for displaced people”. Benoît warns of a looming famine and alarming backdrop of malnutrition, as well as the intensification of ethnic violence as the conflict wears on. Per Benoît, “What has been a collection of localised humanitarian crises has quickly evolved into an all-consuming humanitarian catastrophe”.

 

Last month, the UN Security Council issued a press statement urging the Sudanese Armed Forces and RSF to de-escalate the conflict, seek a sustainable ceasefire and comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law. The Security Council has also called on all Member States to refrain from external interference, which could threaten instability. Member States must adhere to the arms embargo measures in Resolution 1556 (2005). The resolution obliges states to prevent the sale or supply of arms to the Janjaweed operating in North, South, and West Darfur.

 

Doctors without Borders is an international aid organisation whose mission is to offer medical humanitarian assistance to those in war-torn, disease-stricken areas. On May 25, the group reported the loss of a staff member who was tragically killed when shelling hit his home in Sudan; “[m]any of our staff lost family members or their homes during the shelling as well”.

 

As the fighting continues, the shortage of medical staff and the urgent need for medical supplies become ever-apparent. The warning of Claire Nicolet, head of emergency programs, rings clear:

 

Medical supplies are running out—we have only around 10 days of supplies left, so we urgently need to be able to restock the hospital. We need safe access and authorizations from the warring parties to be able to do this. If we don’t get these supplies, it will be extremely difficult to continue to treat the wounded.

 

 

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