Friday, January 21

Attacks on health care in Sudan must stop now, WHO declares

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is following with great concern the escalating crisis in Sudan, including 15 reported attacks on health care workers and health facilities since November 2021 in Khartoum and other cities, 11 of which have been confirmed.

Most of these attacks were committed against health care workers in the form of physical assault, obstruction, violent searches, and related psychological threats and intimidation.

Also reported were two incidents involving raiding and military incursion of health care facilities. These actions can severely restrict patients’ access to health care, which is especially problematic considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other public health threats.

There have also been reports of arrest of patients and health care workers, as well as injury, detention and forced search of health personnel. These incidents resulted in the suspension of emergency services in some health facilities, as well as patients and medical personnel fleeing without completing medical treatment.

WHO is also aware of the interception of ambulances, medical personnel, and patients during their attempts to seek safety.

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These targeted attacks on health care workers, patients, and facilities, are a flagrant violation of International Humanitarian Law and must stop now. Health care workers who have taken a professional oath to save the lives of others must be allowed to work without fear or concern for their personal wellbeing or that of their patients. Patients receiving medical care in health facilities must be able to receive treatment in a safe and secure setting.

WHO condemns all attacks against health care, regardless of motive or context. At a time when COVID-19 remains a significant threat, and people are also at risk of diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, measles, and hepatitis E, it is imperative that health facilities and health care workers continue to function unimpeded.

WHO calls for an immediate cessation of all activities that endanger the lives of health care workers and patients or impede delivery of essential health services. WHO calls on the Sudanese authorities to enforce implementation of Sudan’s Law on the Protection of Doctors, Medical Staff and Health Establishments of 2020, and to comply with it within the framework of International Humanitarian Law.

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The sanctity and safety of health care – including that of workers, patients, and facilities – must be respected and remain neutral, even within a highly politicized context.

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