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Sudan health system hit by doctors’ tiff with powers, lack of medical gear

13 hospitals in Sudan about to shut down in absence of equipment, even as doctors allege repeated attacks from police

Mohammed Amin   | 22.04.2020
Sudan health system hit by doctors’ tiff with powers, lack of medical gear

KHARTOUM, SUDAN

Extreme shortage of medical equipment and confrontation between doctors and law enforcement agencies is wrecking, not only Sudan’s fragile health system is affecting the battle against the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the Central Committee of the Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) has warned that 13 hospitals in the country were about to shut down in absence of equipment that also includes protection gear.

Admitting shortage of equipment, Sudan's Health Minister Akram Ali Altoum said that the country urgently needs at least $120 million for procuring protection gears in addition to other medical equipment.

He further warned that the country is about to run out of the stock of medical requirements.

“We have to work on the preventive measures because if the scale of spread becomes wider we have no capabilities to face it. We are about to run out of the protective clothing for the doctors as well as the surgical masks and other equipment,” he said.

The minister blamed previous Omer al-Bashir government for "destroying the country’s health system."

Besides the shortage of equipment and lack of medical facilities, the issues between doctors and the Health Ministry coupled with their grievances against the law enforcement agencies which are also haunting the country’s health system.

Doctors alleged that the law enforcement agencies that include the Rapid Support Force (RSF) have misbehaved and even attacked them. But the authorities have dismissed them as isolated cases.

The country has so far reported 107 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 12 deaths, according to U.S.-based John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

From last Saturday, authorities have clamped strict lockdown in the capital Khartoum for three weeks and have imposed partial curfew in the rest of the country.

Doctors infected

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Elbarra Alhaj, an office-bearer of CCSD, said his colleagues were working under tiring circumstances, facing a shortage of everything. He revealed that dozens of doctors have been infected with the virus due to the non-availability of protective gear.

“The doctors would never stop working to save the Sudanese people in these critical circumstances. But we have to say that it is the responsibility of the state to provide the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the entire health care staff,” he said.

Abdul Malik al-Hadia, a community medicine expert described the situation in Sudan alarming. He said the capital Khartoum has already become an epicenter of the pandemic in the country. He said four cases have been detected outside the capital also, where the health system is extremely fragile.

“We understand that the situation that the government has inherited is bad. But if we manage the current resources well, we will be able to face this pandemic,” he added.

Attacks on doctors

But what has angered doctors more is that they allege that police and other agencies have been attacking and beating them.

Alhaj said that attacks against the doctors, when they are on duty is obstructing the efforts against the pandemic. He said that such attacks were reported from Darfur and cities of Elhasahisa and Algazera, besides many hospitals in Khartoum. He noted that some of the hospitals have shut down, due to a strike held by the doctors there.

“These attacks have been going on since 2016, but now they have increased. We do believe that the doctors have been targeted for some political reasons including their role in the revolution against the former regime,” he said.

Since the beginning of 2019, at least 26 cases of attacks by the regular forces against the doctors have been reported. In the majority of those cases, investigations have not been completed.

Health Minister Altoum has denounced such attacks and has asked authorities to protect doctors.

“When Sudan medical staff – the White army- are the most needed to fight coronavirus and the most important resource that is in our hand, it is sad to see attacks against them while they are sacrificing,” he said last week.

Police, however, refuted such accusations. A senior police officer requesting anonymity as he is not authorized to talk to the media told Anadolu Agency that some isolated cases are under investigation. 

The paramilitary RSF also denied their involvement in the attacks. 

“RSF is a disciplined force and has been helping in fighting against the pandemic,” it said in a statement.

Khidir Alkhawad, an anthropologist attributed the confrontation to week enforcement of rule of law in the country.

He further said that the political instability and the interfere of the army in the governance coupled with the history of Sudan have created a complicated relationship between the civilians in general, particularly the doctors and the military personnel.

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.
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