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MSF: Lack of visas threatens essential care in last working hospital in Sudan

August 10, 2023 at 12:15 pm

Image of Al Baraha Hospital in Sudan [ASIM/Wikipedia]

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) yesterday warned that it may be forced to suspend life-saving support to the Turkish Hospital in Khartoum; one of the last fully functioning hospitals in Sudan, if no visas are granted for emergency staff.

MSF said in a statement that visa applications for emergency staff, including surgeons, nurses and other specialists, have been pending for more than eight weeks.

The statement added that the visas of many of MSF staff currently running the hospital are close to expiring, which means that the team will have to leave the country and, as a result, MSF’s support to the Ministry of Health in the facility; one of the few hospitals in the whole of Khartoum that is providing round-the-clock care, will soon have to end.

“The MSF team who are currently present inside the hospital have worked tirelessly with our partners in the Ministry of Health for more than two months to keep the facility open – and to expand the services it provides. They have stayed even in the wake of a serious incident in which our team suffered an assault, death threats, and theft,” said Claire Nicolet, MSF emergency manager for Sudan.

READ: UN Security Council discusses situation in Sudan

“Despite our commitment to continue working in this hospital, the lifesaving care our team is providing is now threatened by our inability to bring new staff into the country,” she added.

According to the statement, in the six weeks from mid-June to the end of July, MSF has treated more than 3,800 patients in the Turkish Hospital, including over 1,700 consultations in its emergency room; 20 per cent of whom were war-wounded patients.

In the same period, the hospital treated almost 800 people needing inpatient care, including more than 200 children. The majority of these paediatric cases have been neonates suffering from sepsis, jaundice and malnutrition. Maternal healthcare is also a key service provided in this hospital as well as treatment for chronic diseases, according to the same source.

MSF explained that since the beginning of the crisis in April, the Sudanese authorities have centralised the granting of visas in Port Sudan and stopped granting residency visas, meaning visas are issued for only two months, with the possibility to extend for one additional month if the person is able to go to Port Sudan, which represents a challenge given the security conditions in parts of the country where MSF operates, such as Darfur and Khartoum.

The health situation in the country is deteriorating day by day where in addition to the war, some 48 million Sudanese people now have to deal with hunger and floods.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) more than 40 per cent of the population suffers from hunger, in addition to “the lack of medicines, sanitary equipment, electricity, and water.”

Since the outbreak of the war on 15 April, humanitarian relief organisations have complained of their inability to reach people in need and accuse bureaucracy for obstructing their movement.

READ: Over 40% of Sudanese people suffer from hunger: WHO chief