Sudan: Médecins sans frontières (MSF) suspends delivery of care in Khartoum’s Turkish hospital

Sudan: Médecins sans frontières (MSF) suspends delivery of care in Khartoum’s Turkish hospital

Sudan: Médecins sans frontières (MSF) suspends delivery of care in Khartoum’s Turkish hospital
Sudan: Médecins sans frontières (MSF) suspends delivery of care in Khartoum’s Turkish hospital

Médecins sans frontières (MSF)

After over a year of violent incidents both inside and outside the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-supported Turkish Hospital in Khartoum, Sudan – including threats made against the lives of MSF staff – MSF has taken the decision to evacuate our team from the hospital. This decision has not been taken lightly.

Amidst the ongoing war in Sudan, MSF had managed to provide continuous, hands-on, lifesaving treatment in the facility for almost 14 months, despite many, often deliberate, obstructions from the warring parties. However, as a result of recent events, this hands-on support is now no longer possible.

“The situation in the Turkish hospital, located in a Rapid Support Forces-controlled area, has become untenable,” says Claire Nicolet, head of MSF’s emergency response in Sudan. “Multiple violent incidents have taken place inside and outside the premises over the past 12 months, and the lives of our staff have been repeatedly threatened.”

“Most-recently, on the nights of 17 and 18 June, dozens of wounded combatants were brought to the Turkish hospital, and our team was aggressively woken up as Kalashnikovs were fired into their bedrooms,” says Nicolet. “This type of violence against our staff is unacceptable.”

“Hospitals and health facilities should be protected and respected by the warring parties as sanctuaries for the sick and wounded where health workers can safely deliver medical care,” continues Nicolet. “They cannot have their lives put at-risk as they try to save the lives of other people.”

Over the past year, MSF staff working at the Turkish hospital have been frequently harassed both inside the facility and on the street going to and from work. Many have been threatened with arrest. At the start of June, one MSF employee was arrested inside the hospital by two armed men, taken to an unknown location, and severely beaten.

“The team are physically and mentally exhausted. Due to the blockade that has been imposed by the Sudanese authorities since September – forbidding the transportation of medical supplies and humanitarian personnel into Rapid Support Forces-controlled areas – the team in the Turkish hospital have been working without a break for the past 10 months,” Nicolet explains. “The blockade means it has not been possible for us to bring in a new team to replace them, and they have been working tirelessly to keep the hospital open under intense pressure.”

The Turkish hospital remains open thanks to the presence of the Ministry of Health staff.  However, surgery will no longer be possible without the presence of the MSF staff who have been evacuated, and the future of the hospital is uncertain.

Since the start of the war, the Turkish hospital has been a crucial part of the health system, serving patients not only from Khartoum, but also from as far away as Wad Madani in Al-Jazirah state. MSF was also forced to suspend operations there in May 2024, due to repeated security incidents and obstructions to bring in staff and supplies, similar to those impacting Khartoum.

Before MSF established an emergency room and expanded the capacity of the operating theatre in the Turkish hospital in mid-May 2023, it was a specialist women’s and children’s hospital. Almost 80 per cent of all surgical procedures in the hospital over the past year were lifesaving caesarean sections for women experiencing complications during pregnancy and childbirth. As a result of these repeated security incidents, all surgery in the hospital has now stopped.

MSF also provided ante-natal care, post-natal care, family planning, ran the paediatric intensive care unit, the inpatient therapeutic feeding centre for children with severe acute malnutrition, and the neonatal unit – the only neonatal unit in the whole of Khartoum. MSF’s hands-on support to these activities has also now been suspended.

Bashair Teaching hospital in Khartoum, also supported by MSF, has faced multiple armed incursions over the past few months as well, and between October 2023 and January 2024, MSF was forced to suspend surgery in the hospital. MSF continues to work in this hospital in spite of these incidents. The security situation across the board has deteriorated significantly, and in Khartoum especially.    
MSF urges the warring parties to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure – including hospitals and other health structures. For facilities that are able to remain operational, it is vital that medical supplies and humanitarian workers are provided with the necessary permits to be able to move across frontlines. Due to the ongoing blockade imposed on humanitarian organisations by the Sudanese authorities, many facilities are struggling to remain open and the lives and health of millions of people in Khartoum and other parts of the country are at risk. 

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Médecins sans frontières (MSF).