Last Civilian Hospital in Besieged Sudanese City Closes After Attack

Doctors at one of the last functioning hospitals in the besieged Sudanese city of el-Fasher have been forced to shut down the facility following an attack. Sudan is currently engulfed in a devastating civil war that began 14 months ago. El-Fasher is the only city in the Darfur region still under army control.

The hospital, supported by the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), was the sole remaining facility in el-Fasher where injured civilians could receive treatment. For several days, there were reports of shells hitting the city’s South Hospital, causing injuries and deaths. Eyewitnesses say the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) entered the facility on Saturday, causing chaos.

According to accounts, gunmen drove up to the hospital, opened fire, looted drugs and medical equipment, stole an ambulance, and assaulted staff. “Due to the chaos, our team was unable to verify if there were any dead or wounded,” MSF’s interim head of mission in Sudan.

Medics at the hospital had previously indicated plans to relocate due to security concerns. Thankfully, only 10 patients and a reduced medical team were present during the attack on Saturday. “The hospital is really close to the frontline, so it will remain closed for now,” said Mr. Kowalski. MSF is moving their el-Fasher operations to the nearby Saudi Hospital, but fuel, electricity, and water supplies are not yet functioning there, leaving injured civilians without medical care for at least a week.

“Opening fire inside a hospital crosses a line,” said MSF Head of Emergencies Michel Lacharite, calling the attack “outrageous” and stating that “the responsibility lies with warring parties to spare medical facilities.” The Sudanese national army, which has been fighting the RSF over the past year, has also been accused of widespread abuses. However, in this instance, the RSF forced the shutdown of a hospital treating civilians.

The suspension of activities at the hospital is a significant setback for the people of el-Fasher, as it was the main referral facility for treating the war-wounded. It was “the only one equipped to manage mass casualties and one of two hospitals with surgical capacity,” according to MSF, which says more than 1,300 injured people sought treatment there in the past month alone.

Across the country, more than 15,000 people are estimated to have been killed since the conflict started in April 2023, and almost nine million have been forced to flee their homes—more than in any other conflict in the world. Last week, at least 150 people, including 35 children, were massacred by suspected RSF forces in the village of Wad al-Nourah in Gezira state.

In Darfur, rights groups have accused the RSF of using rape as a weapon of war and targeting darker-skinned Masalit people and other non-Arab groups in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Several rounds of peace talks have failed to end the war, which began when the two generals leading the army and RSF respectively fell out. UN agencies say the fighting has sparked the world’s largest displacement crisis and that millions are facing a hunger catastrophe as a result.

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Piers Potter


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