Sudan: Fears of Disease Outbreaks in Khartoum as Rainy Season Looms and Ceasefire Talks Suspended

Sudanese refugees collect relief items distributed by UNICEF and its partners in Kounfroun, Chad (file photo).
2 June 2023
Islamic Relief Worldwide ()

There are growing fears of disease outbreaks in Sudan following the collapse of ceasefire talks, Islamic Relief says.

The rainy season is due to begin in June and the destruction from weeks of fighting makes outbreaks of water-borne and vector-borne diseases such as malaria, cholera and chikungunya even more likely. In Khartoum and parts of Darfur there are still dead bodies lying in the streets, water infrastructure is damaged, garbage is piling up and most hospitals are still not functioning – all adding to the risk of diseases spreading and water sources being contaminated.

The latest suspension of ceasefire negotiations has already resulted in a new surge in violence, with many civilians reported killed and injured by shelling in Khartoum in the past 24 hours. Aid agencies face a race against time to deliver aid before the rainy season starts, and an increase in violence will make this even more difficult.

Local doctors have reported rising cases of illness, including meningitis, among children in Khartoum due to decomposing unburied bodies and rotting food on the streets. In parts of Darfur civilians have been attacked at water points, leaving many families unable to safely access clean water.

Elsadig Elnour, Islamic Relief’s Country Director in Sudan and a public health professional, says: “I expect there will be a disease outbreak in Khartoum when the rainy season arrives. The combination of rotting bodies, destroyed infrastructure and heavy rains is a recipe for disaster, and health facilities don’t have the supplies or capacity to deal with a major outbreak. This rainy season will increase the crisis and the suffering of people here. It’s vital that both sides open safe routes for humanitarian access, and make sure that bodies can be buried and the city can be fully cleaned before the rains come.”

The war has impacted energy and water infrastructure, and sparked food and supplies shortages in Khartoum meaning many residents are surviving with no running water and are just getting water from the River Nile or local wells when there is a break in the fighting. The rains could present further risk of disease if people drink from unclean sources.

The time of increased rainfall in Sudan usually runs between June and around October and is also expected to impact the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver aid to remote areas of Sudan, with the rains affecting roads and making parts of the country virtually inaccessible.

More than six weeks of conflict has created a humanitarian crisis with around 25 million people now in need of food, medicine, cash and other aid and more than 1.3 million people forced to flee their homes.

Islamic Relief’s teams in Sudan are responding to the crisis wherever possible but security and access continues to be a major challenge. In the past week Islamic Relief supported the delivery of food to 40,000 people in Central Darfur, and has provided other aid to people fleeing Khartoum and arriving in Al Jazirah State. We are also running health centres in Darfur, though stocks of medicine are running low and the insecurity makes it challenging to restock.

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