Sudan conflict: 'We're expecting to get shot at any time,' doctor says

People standing outside Khartoum hospital

Sick people are still being admitted to hospitals, despite the dangers of travelling on Khartoum’s streets

A Sudanese doctor has told the BBC that he and his colleagues are “expecting… to get shot [at] any time” while working in a Khartoum hospital.

The doctor, who we are not naming, has been volunteering to treat sick people, most of whom have been shot.

He said he felt “helpless” and that it was “difficult” to “see people in front of you… dying”.

Both staff and patients at the hospital have been hit by stray bullets, he said.

He will no longer return to that hospital because it is not safe, but instead will treat patients at a different medical facility.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) says 39 out of 59 hospitals in the capital, Khartoum, and nearby states are “out of service”, highlighting the worsening humanitarian situation in the country.

“Among the hospitals that have stopped working, there are nine hospitals that were bombed, and 16 hospitals that were subjected to forced evacuation,” the CCSD said.

Fighting between the Sudanese army and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) group is now in its fifth day, amid a power struggle in the country.

The doctor confirmed to the BBC that patients and doctors in at least 16 hospitals had been forcibly evacuated from hospitals by the RSF, although the BBC is not able to independently verify this report.

Patients are stranded in some hospitals with no clean water or food, and it is difficult to evacuate them because of “lack of transportation, the lack of safe passages and the lack of gasoline”.

He also said that several corpses had been left in hospitals that cannot be accessed.

A second medic, Dr Ahmed Abbas who is a coordinator for the Sudan Doctors’ Union, told the BBC’s Newshour radio programme that the “situation is bad” and that very few Khartoum hospitals were functioning.

Those hospitals are struggling and “running short of oxygen” and life-saving drugs, while doctors have been working “round the clock” and are exhausted to the “point of collapse”.

Black smoke in Khartoum

There were fresh explosions in Khartoum on Wednesday

Dr Abbas also warned that “people are dying from lack of staff” and blood supplies, while others were dying because of a “long wait” to get to the operating rooms, adding that the heath service was “beyond collapse”.

Both Dr Abbas and the unnamed Khartoum doctor told the BBC that some hospitals had been used by the factions as a refuge for their fighters.

Dr Abbas said five major Khartoum hospitals had been almost totally destroyed by “crossfire fighting”.

Speaking on Tuesday, World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for immediate action to help civilians caught in the crossfire, and to ensure protection for health workers.

“Healthcare facilities and workers must never be a target, especially in a situation like this, where there are thousands of civilians who need access to emergency care,” Dr Tedros said.

About 200 people have been confirmed as dead since fighting broke out on Saturday, according to the UN.

Large numbers of Khartoum residents have been fleeing, whilst others are trapped in their homes seeking shelter as a fresh wave of explosions erupted in the capital this morning.

Sudan: The basics

  • Sudan is in north-east Africa and has a history of instability: The military toppled long-time leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019 after mass protests

  • It then overthrew a power-sharing government in 2021, putting two men at the helm: The head of the army and his deputy, who is also the head of a paramilitary group called the RSF

  • They disagree on how to restore civilian rule to Sudan: The RSF leader claims to represent marginalised groups against the country’s elites but his forces were accused of ethnic cleansing

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