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Sudan’s Warring Factions Must End Attacks on Hospitals, Protect Civilians: Joint Statement

Eight Sudanese and international health and human rights organizations condemn the continued attacks on hospitals and health care in Sudan amid the escalating conflict in the country. The organizations – including the Sudanese American Physicians Association (SAPA), Sudan Doctors Union – Canada (SDU Canada), Sudan Doctors Union – UK (SDU-UK), Sudanese Doctors Union of Ireland (SDUI), Sudanese Doctors Association in Qatar (SUDAQ), Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), Insecurity Insight (II), and Jonathan Mann Global Health and Human Rights Initiative, Drexel University – call on combatants to commit to an immediate, permanent cessation of hostilities; the protection of civilians; and safe passage for medical personnel, ambulances, and hospitals to ensure that civilians can access critical health care services. All parties to the conflict should respect the nationwide ceasefire that took effect on April 24.  

Amid a broader wave of attacks against civilians, health professionals in Sudan are reporting escalating violence perpetrated against health workers and facilities. The most recent situational report released on April 26, 2023 by the Preliminary Committee of Sudan’s Doctors’ Trade Union reports 295 deaths among civilians and 1,790 civilian casualties since April 15.  According to these reports: 

  • 19 hospitals have been forced to evacuate in Khartoum and surrounding cities.  
  • As of April 26, 59 out of a reported 82 hospitals in Khartoum and surrounding cities are non-operational.  
  • At least six ambulances have been fired upon, while others have been prevented from transporting injured or critically ill patients. 
  • At least 12 health care personnel and health sciences students have been killed. 
  • As of April 22, only 15 out of 81 primary care centers are reportedly operational in Khartoum State. Six dialysis centers out of 24 are out of service. 

More hospitals and medical facilities face the imminent threat of shutdown due to critical shortages of medical personnel, supplies, water, and power, as well as the risk of further attacks.  

Injured or ill civilians are unable to access hospitals due to the dire circumstances. The crisis is at risk of spiraling and millions of people face a looming health and humanitarian emergency.  

All parties to the conflict are obligated under international humanitarian law to guarantee access to medical supplies and relief organizations offering medical care. Deliberate or indiscriminate attacks on hospitals and health care facilities, as well as health care workers and transit vehicles, are violations of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II, to which Sudan is a party. Sudan is also a party to a range of relevant human rights instruments, including the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention Against Torture, and the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. 

A PHR fact sheet on medical impartiality explains states’ duties and obligations under international law to respect the impartial provision of health care and the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of armed conflict and civil unrest. Governments have the obligation to protect health professionals’ impartiality and ability to heal the sick and treat the injured without discrimination. 

The eight organizations are calling on all parties to the conflict to: 

  • Respect and extend an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. 
  • Comply with international legal obligations under the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II, which strictly prohibit attacks on health care and protect humanitarian access for medical supplies and other humanitarian organizations offering medical care, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. 
  • Adhere to UN Security Council Resolution 2286, which calls for the protection of health care workers and infrastructure in times of conflict, as well as accountability for attacks on health care.  
  • Provide and ensure safe passage for critical supplies to hospitals, primary care centers, and dialysis units, including water, electric power, gas supplies, and oxygen cylinders. 

The international community and international organizations must also act swiftly to secure safe passage for civilians fleeing the war and prepare shelter, food, and medical services for internally displaced people and refugees at the borders of Egypt, Ethiopia, Chad, and South Sudan.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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