W.H.O. Records 15 Attacks on Sudan Health Facilities, Workers in 2 Months

Ethiopian refugees of the Qemant ethnic group sit in a make-shift medical clinic at a camp in the village of Basinga in Basunda district of Sudan's eastern Gedaref region on August 10, 2021. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP) (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty Images)
ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty Images

Unidentified persons have allegedly perpetrated 15 attacks on Sudanese healthcare facilities and workers since November 2021, U.N. News reported on Wednesday, adding that the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) had confirmed 11 of the 15 alleged attacks so far.

“Most of these attacks were committed against health care workers in the form of physical assault, obstruction, violent searches, and related psychological threats and intimidation,” Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, director of the W.H.O.’s Eastern Mediterranean Region, said in a statement issued on January 11.

“At least two of the confirmed incidents involved raids and incursions by military personnel on [healthcare] facilities,” according to U.N. News.

“There have also been reports of arrest of patients and health care workers, as well as injury, detention and forced search of health personnel,” Al-Mandhari’s statement detailed on Tuesday. “These incidents resulted in the suspension of emergency services in some health facilities, as well as patients and medical personnel fleeing without completing medical treatment.”

The W.H.O. representative said his agency was “also aware of the interception of ambulances, medical personnel and patients during their attempts to seek safety.”

The Associated Press

Nyayiar Kuol holds her severely malnourished 1-year-old daughter Chuoder Wal in a hospital run by Medicines Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in Old Fangak in Jonglei state, South Sudan Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick)

The W.H.O. did not disclose if Sudan government officials had identified suspects or motives in either the confirmed or alleged attacks on health-related institutions over the past two months. The organization said it began using a “surveillance and reporting system for attacks on health facilities and personnel in Sudan” in 2019.

The latest spate of harassment represents the highest rate of attacks on health buildings, vehicles, and personnel recorded in Sudan through the U.N. reporting system since its 2019 launch. Sudan is currently undergoing intense political turmoil that has sparked civil unrest. The conditions may have contributed to the recent spike in healthcare-related violence, some of which has been documented in Khartoum, the Sudanese national capital and seat of government.

Sudan is an official member state of the W.H.O.’s Eastern Mediterranean Region. The country shares its northern border with the Mediterranean nation of Egypt and its eastern border with the Red Sea, which is connected to the Mediterranean Sea via Egypt’s Suez Canal.

The W.H.O. funds a large proportion of Sudan’s public healthcare system, including its facilities and workers, through its position as the U.N.’s international public health body. The organization published a report in May 2017 detailing the extent of its healthcare presence in Sudan, which included “the construction and equipment of 92 new family health care centres and 176 family health units.”

The global public health agency oversaw “the training of over 800 community health workers” in Sudan at the time “with an additional 1000 people undergoing basic community health training … across the [nation’s] 18 states.”

The W.H.O. said it was training roughly “6000 community midwives” to assist with childbirths along with “215 assistant health visitors.” The agency presumably trained the midwives and “health visitors” to pay home visits to people in rural or low-income settings with limited or no means of traveling to traditional health clinics for medical care.

“In addition, an estimated 1400 medical assistants are now enrolled in basic training,” the W.H.O. reported at the time.

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