As fighting between warring factions has engulfed Sudan in recent days, hospitals treating people wounded in clashes have themselves become the targets for attacks, dealing the nation’s healthcare sector a devastating blow.
In one episode, five eyewitnesses told CNN that the paramilitary group battling Sudan’s military for control of the country besieged and shelled a hospital in the capital Khartoum on Sunday, leaving at least one child dead and sending panicked medical staff fleeing for their lives.
The leaders of the opposing sides, Sudan’s military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy and paramilitary chief Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, have traded blame for instigating the fighting that has spread across the country since Saturday. Burhan has accused Dagalo of staging an “attempted coup”; Dagolo has in turn called Burhan a “criminal.”
But at al-Moallem hospital in central Khartoum, where intense shelling forced staffers to evacuate, leaving some patients behind, witnesses said they have little doubt about what happened.
“I have no doubt that they deliberately targeted the hospital,” said one medic who evacuated the hospital on Sunday after Dagalo’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) laid siege to it. CNN is not using any of the real names of the hospital medics in this article for safety reasons.
The hospital is meters away from Sudan’s army headquarters, which the RSF has made repeated attempts to take over. Medics said it was treating scores of wounded army soldiers and their families. The hospital’s maternity ward was struck in the shelling, causing a wall there to collapse, according to hospital employees.
A 6-year-old child died in the building, one medic said. Two other children were seriously wounded. As the shelling intensified, medics and patients huddled together in the corridor and prayed.
At first we were praying for salvation,” the medic said. “Then when the shelling got worse, we started to discuss what would be the most painless part of the body to be shot in and began to pray instead to die painlessly.”
It’s unclear whether the RSF has taken control of the hospital as it attempts to take over the nearby army headquarters, a flashpoint in Khartoum’s violence.
“The evacuation was chaos,” the medic said. “I thought I was going to vomit. I was stumbling and falling on the ground.”
“Can you believe that we left the hospital and left behind children in incubators and patients in intensive care without any medical personnel,” another medic said. “The smell of death was everywhere.”