'Disease catastrophe' looms in Sudan as health conditions deteriorate, medics warn

A Sudanese officer speaks to civilians recruited by the army as they take part in a military training in the Kassinger area of Sudan's Northern State on August 9, 2023. -- AFP via Getty Images

(LONDON) -- Sudan is facing the risk of "major disease outbreaks," with medics reporting "thousands of corpses" decomposing in the streets of the Khartoum, the capital, as morgues are stretched to "breaking point," health officials said.

Sudan has recorded a "horrifying combination of rising numbers of corpses, severe water shortages, non-functioning hygiene and sanitation services," according to Save the Children, a nongovernmental organization.

The situation amounted to "unfortunately perfect for an outbreak of cholera and other such disease," World Heatlh Organization spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said in a statement this week.

Doctors in the war-torn African country had previously warned that the nation's health-care system was in danger of collapse as a combination of power and water outages, shortages of health workers and attacks on healthcare facilities by armed militias push the system to the brink.

"The result of the war and its repercussions since April15th of 2023 has led to the paralysis of the healthcare system in the country," the Sudan Doctors' Trade Union said. "This is what we have been warning about since the outbreak of this conflict."

As warring generals from the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continue to exchange fire as they battle for control of the country, the U.N. has announced they are recording an increase in malnutrition cases, disease outbreaks and related deaths.

Over 300 deaths -- mostly among children -- were reported by the U.N. due to rising malnutrition and outbreaks of disease between 15 May and 17 July.

"We are seeing a health crisis in the making, on top of a crisis of sorrow, fear and pain," said Dr. Bashir Kamal Eldin Hamid, health and nutrition director at Save the Children.

Since the start of the conflict in Sudan, about 80% of Sudan's main hospitals have gone out of service, the remainder operating at partial capacity.

"As casualties increase, hospitals are closing, completely emptied of medicines and doctors, and looted of any remaining supplies," he said.

He added, "Where hospitals are still open, they are stretched beyond capacity and nearly non-functional due to staff fatigue and a lack of supplies."

Healthcare systems in the states of Khartoum and Darfur are most affected, Sudan Doctors' Trade Union said.

The lives of over 8,000 patients suffering from kidney problems face may also soon face a crisis as many dialysis centres remain out of service, the remainder expected to be closed next week "unless dialysis equipment is provided urgently," Sudan Doctors' Trade Union announced.

Speaking to ABC News in June, Dr. Mohamed Karrar, recounted the scene when he arrived at an abandoned hospital in Khartoum that had been occupied by RSF soldiers: "When we arrived, it was empty and there was blood on the floor in the emergency room, corpses belonging to soldiers and civilians laying on the ground and on trolleys."

At least 53 attacks on healthcare officials were recorded between April 15 and July 31, leading to the deaths of 11 healthcare staffers, the World Health Organization said.

As the conflict enters its fourth month, at least 3,000 people have been killed across the North African nation according to Sudanese government, and at least 4 million displaced.

"Despite these harrowing conditions, brave Sudanese health workers and humanitarians continue to serve as a lifeline for those in urgent need of medical care, and the United States continues to stand with the Sudanese people," the U.S. Agency for International Development said in a statement.

Friday, August 11, 2023 at 7:23AM by Emma Ogao, ABC News Permalink