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People gather at a health facility in El Fasher

Bomb kills two children and puts El Fasher hospital out of action amid fighting

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  • Babiker Nahar Paediatric Hospital in El Fasher, Sudan, has been forced to close after an airstrike caused the roof to collapse and killed three people.
  • Amidst escalating violence in North Darfur, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) urgently calls on all warring parties to protect civilians and ensure the protection of health structures.

On the evening of Saturday 11 May, an airstrike carried out by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) landed 50 metres from Babiker Nahar Paediatric Hospital, which is supported by MSF, in El Fasher, North Darfur. This led to the collapse of the roof above the intensive care unit (ICU) and the death of two children who remained receiving treatment there, as well as the death of at least one caregiver.  
 
This hospital was one of the few specialising in the treatment of sick children that had managed to remain operational since the start of the war. It received referrals from across the Darfur region because so many others had been forced to close. Now, one additional health facility has been put out of action.  
 
Saturday’s incident came after heavy fighting between the RSF and SAF/Joint Forces in North Darfur on Friday 10 May, when 160 wounded people – including 31 women and 19 children – arrived at the MSF-supported South Hospital in El Fasher. Twenty-five of these wounded people were in a terminal condition upon arrival and passed away.  
 
Friday’s fighting took place close to Babiker Nahar, and led to almost all patients fleeing in search of safety – many arrived at South Hospital. Of the 115 children receiving treatment in Babiker Nahar, 10 remained on Saturday when the bomb dropped – including the two children who were killed. Currently, the hospital is closed. 
 
MSF urgently calls on all warring parties to protect civilians and ensure the protection of health structures, as they are obligated to do under International Humanitarian Law, and the Jeddah declaration – signed exactly one year ago on the day that the hospital was damaged and the children and caregiver were killed.  
 
“Two children who were receiving treatment in our intensive care unit at the paediatric hospital, as well as one caregiver, have been killed as a result of collateral damage following an airstrike by the Sudanese Armed Forces,” says Michel-Olivier Lacharité, head MSF’s emergency operations.

One-hundred and fifteen children were receiving treatment in this hospital – now no one is. Already, there was far too little health care available in Sudan due to the conflict. The original paediatric hospital was looted at the start of the war.

The children were evacuated to a small health clinic that we rehabilitated and expanded in May and June last year. Upgrading a small health clinic into a functioning hospital is not an easy task – especially during an active conflict. It was one of the very few children’s hospitals remaining in the whole Darfur region.

We received referrals from across Darfur because of the lack of facilities elsewhere. Now we are one additional hospital down, just as we were trying to scale-up our response in El Fasher and Zamzam camp in response to the catastrophic malnutrition crisis there.
  
“The 115 children in the hospital were receiving treatment for conditions such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea and malnutrition. Now, many are receiving no treatment at all,” says Lacharité. 

“The children who were killed were in a critical condition in our ICU, but their lives could have been saved. This must not happen again. We remind the warring parties with the utmost gravity that hospitals and health facilities must not be targeted, or become collateral damage in a conflict.

“We also urge them to ensure that they protect civilians – something they completely failed to do this weekend. As well as the two children and the caregiver, 25 people wounded in the fighting who arrived at South Hospital on Friday were in a terminal condition and it was not possible to save their lives.”