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Sudan crisis: Over 50 dead at orphanage from lack of food and water

Orphan-turned-carer says the scene of dead babies has been 'terrifying'
A view from inside an orphanage in Khartoum, Sudan, in this handout image released 20 April 2023 (Dr. Abdallah Adam via Reuters)
A view from inside an orphanage in Khartoum, Sudan, in this handout image released 20 April 2023 (Dr Abdallah Adam via Reuters)

The death of 13 babies on Friday in the Sudanese capital Khartoum has taken the total fatalities at an orphanage to at least 50 since the war broke out in mid-April, medical staff have said.

A doctor and an official at the state-run Mygoma orphanage told Reuters the main causes of death were malnourishment, dehydration and infections, as the centre suffered from depleted resources amid the ongoing fighting between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF)

The deaths were reportedly mostly newborns and others under a year old.

Heba Abdullah, an orphan-turned-carer, told Reuters the scene of dead babies has been "terrifying" and "painful". 

Deaths had been mounting for weeks. 

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On 16 May, the NGO, Hadhreen, sent a plea for donations on Facebook to help the centre, which was already stretched thin before fighting broke out. 

"We are losing babies daily. Between 6 and 18 months old. Same symptoms. High fever. After four hours, innocent souls go to God who is more generous than any of us," the organisation said.

Frequent power outages caused by the fighting have accelerated the depletion of resources at the centre, which employs 20 people caring for 400 children. 

'We are losing babies daily'

- Hadhreen NGO

Lack of air conditioning amid soaring temperatures has caused rooms to overheat and prevented staff from sterilising equipment. There have also been staff shortages due to the fighting.

Reuters said more deaths were reported over the weekend, at least seven of them reviewed by the agency. 

Centrally located in Khartoum, the orphanage has also been caught in the crosshairs of the conflict, rocked by air strikes and artillery fire.

Following an explosion at a neighbouring building, the staff were forced to evacuate children from one of the rooms to another part of the already overcrowded building.

Threat of humanitarian crisis

The conflict erupted on 15 April and fighting has continued in major cities despite repeated ceasefire agreements.

Mygoma’s dead babies form part of the mounting death toll in the war, which has killed at least 700 people and displaced 1.3 million others, according to the United Nations.

With an already fragile public health system collapsing under the weight of war, doctors and aid workers warn that a humanitarian disaster is imminent.

According to the UN, before the fighting erupted, a third of the Sudanese population was already in need of aid.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said an estimated two-thirds of hospitals in Khartoum have been forced to close since the fighting started. The few remaining have been beset by raids and looting, leaving chronically-ill patients without medication.

According to the New York Times, maternal care networks have suffered the most, causing premature births to skyrocket.

In late April, an evacuation of Sudan’s largest maternity hospital left nine babies dead due to a lack of adequately equipped ambulances.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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