Thu | Sep 28, 2023

Trapped by Sudan fighting, dozens of children die in orphanage

Published:Thursday | June 1, 2023 | 12:50 AM


At least 60 infants, toddlers and older children perished over the past six weeks while trapped in harrowing conditions in an orphanage in Sudan’s capital as fighting raged outside.

Most died from lack of food and from fever. Twenty-six died in two days over the weekend.

The extent of the children’s suffering emerged from interviews with more than a dozen doctors, volunteers, health officials and workers at the Al-Mayqoma orphanage. The Associated Press also reviewed dozens of documents, images, and videos showing the deteriorating conditions at the facility.

Video taken by orphanage workers shows bodies of children tightly bundled in white sheets awaiting burial. In other footage, two dozen toddlers wearing only diapers sit on the floor of a room, many of them wailing, as a woman carried two metal jugs of water. Another woman sits on the floor with her back to the camera, rocking back and forth and apparently cradling a child.

An orphanage worker later explained that the toddlers were moved to the large room after nearby shelling blanketed another part of the facility with heavy dust last week.

“It is a catastrophic situation,” Afkar Omar Moustafa, a volunteer at the orphanage, said in a phone interview. “This was something we expected from day one (of the fighting).”

Among the dead were babies as young as three months, according to death certificates as well as four orphanage officials and workers for charities now helping the facility.

The weekend was particularly deadly, with 14 children perishing Friday and 12 on Saturday.

This raised alarm and outrage across social media, and a local charity was able to deliver food, medicine and baby formula to the orphanage on Sunday, with the help of the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Orphanage workers warned that more children could die, and called for their speedy evacuation out of war-torn Khartoum.

The battle for control of Sudan erupted April 15, pitting the Sudanese military, led by Gen Abdel-Fattah Burhan, against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces commanded by Gen Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.

The fighting has turned Khartoum and other urban areas into battlefields. Many houses and civilian infrastructure have been looted or were damaged by stray shells and bullets.