Medics flee as rebels attack and shut down North Darfur’s main hospital

Medical Personnel Evacuate as Insurgents Assault and Close North Darfur's Primary Hospital
In this 2019 photo shows Sudanese soldiers from the Rapid Support Forces in the East Nile province, Sudan. Hussein Malla/AP/File

According to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the major hospital in North Darfur was looted and desecrated by Sudanese paramilitary troops known as the Rapid Support troops (RSF). This is a deeply disturbing development. This horrific event occurred when, according to MSF’s documentation, RSF militants invaded South Hospital in El Fasher, North Darfur, opened fire, and looted vital medical equipment, including an ambulance.

Because it was the only hospital in the area that could treat large numbers of people at once and a major hub for referrals from other hospitals, South Hospital was crucial in the region’s continuous strife. It was a surgical facility, one of the few of its kind in El Fasher. The humanitarian situation was already bad before the assault, and it got worse when patients were rushed to other hospitals that weren’t ready for that many people.

At the entrance to the hospital, armed men—reportedly members of the RSF—are seen, in footage confirmed by CNN, with one of them shown firing a gun into the building. The assault happened with just a small medical team and ten patients present, according to MSF’s social media statement. Efforts to move patients to safer locations had already begun owing to the escalating hostilities in the area.

Social media images that CNN confirmed showed the willful damage of medical equipment at South Hospital. The video goes on to show an armed man posing inside an ambulance, the ownership of which is not specified. According to MSF, the majority of patients and their medical staff were able to flee the violence, but the subsequent turmoil made it impossible to determine the exact number of casualties.

Unfortunately, South Hospital is not alone in its predicament; the facility has been the target of multiple assaults in the past few weeks, including shootings and mortar shellings, which have resulted in casualties and injuries among both patients and personnel. The rising bloodshed highlights a larger pattern of hospitals and other healthcare facilities being targeted in the Darfur region, where armed groups frequently launch airstrikes and raids. Neighboring hospitals also take a heavy hit.

The outrageous acts of the RSF were denounced by Michel Lacharite, Head of Emergencies for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Lacharite stressed that these attacks are in violation of international humanitarian law and put at risk life-saving medical supplies that civilians caught in the crossfire badly require. International organizations, including the EU, shared his view when they condemned the attack on South Hospital and demanded a stern commitment to humanitarian standards.

In a broader sense, the ongoing battle between the RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces has resulted in the displacement of millions of people and the immediate need for humanitarian assistance for millions more. El Fasher is in a dire state, with roughly 1.8 million people on the verge of starvation and many more forced to flee their homes as violence rises, as brought to light by the United Nations.

Persistent attacks on vital facilities, like as hospitals, increase the burden on already-stretched humanitarian resources and impede efforts to alleviate the crisis. Organizations from around the world have repeatedly called on both sides of the conflict to show restraint, highlighting the critical need to protect healthcare institutions and the right of civilians to get medical treatment.

There is an immediate need for international action to stop the humanitarian crisis from getting worse and to safeguard civilian lives and vital services in Sudan, where the conflict is showing no signs of ending and where civilians are caught in the middle of it.


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