PARIS: As fighting rages around the Sudanese capital, the country is close to collapse, with water and electricity infrastructure severely damaged and the health sector hard hit.
Drug shortages are being felt throughout the country, and most hospitals in the capital are no longer functioning. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been present in the country since 1978, has reorganized and relocated its field teams, which are struggling to work in “normal” conditions.
An eight-ton shipment of humanitarian relief supplies, including medical equipment to help local hospitals and Sudanese Red Crescent volunteers treat people injured in the fighting, arrived in Port Sudan from Amman, Jordan, on Sunday, yet it is impossible to release and distribute the shipment.
“We are still not in a position to continue the operation, to distribute these resources to the most affected towns and locations. For the time being, we do not have the capacity to give information about the transfer of these materials, especially because of the security situation, which remains unpredictable,” Imene Trabelsi, ICRC spokesperson for the Near and Middle East, told Arab News in French.
Communication has also suffered between teams on the ground and regional offices and headquarters.
“The situation on the ground is serious. As the fighting continues, hospitals and health facilities have already used up their stocks. Doctors and nurses cannot access hospitals or their facilities because the security situation does not allow it,” Trabelsi said.
“Currently, there are no health professionals to treat the people who need help. Not to mention the shortage of water and electricity supplies, which makes it almost impossible for hospitals to operate.
“In the most affected areas, we have been able to support the Sudanese Red Crescent, our main partner in Sudan. Over the last two weeks, we have been delivering kits for war injuries from hospitals in Darfur. We have tried to deliver these kits to a number of hospitals. The need is great and the situation is dire, but we have not always been able to do so because of the security situation, which does not allow for a proper humanitarian operation.
“There are no exact figures, but the World Health Organization estimates that only 16 percent of the health infrastructure in Khartoum is still operational,” she said.
Faced with the virtual paralysis of the health sector, the ICRC is appealing “for a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds to be fully respected and for the various parties to the conflict to assume their responsibilities with regard to security guarantees for humanitarians, in the interests of the population.”
Trabelsi said: “It is vital for humanitarian actors such as the Red Cross to be able to move as soon as possible. In order for us to move and support the sector, we need the parties to the conflict to understand their legal obligations in this kind of situation. These obligations are to take all possible precautions to protect civilian lives but also to protect infrastructure vital to the survival of the civilian population and to humanitarian work and to provide the necessary security guarantees so that humanitarian actors can do their work safely.
“We are not talking about a choice; we are talking about a legal obligation according to international humanitarian law that is applicable in conflict zones, which is the case of Sudan.”