In the Rashideen neighborhood of Omdurman, Sudanese youth volunteered to convert a school into a field hospital. Because of the fighting that has been going on in Sudan for six weeks, three-quarters of the hospitals are out of service, and people are in dire need of medical care.
In front of a blackboard, a patient receives solutions while lying on a student’s table, while a bag of serum hangs from a window in Khartoum, while a group of volunteers, with the available tools, tries to replace closed hospitals.
In a small school in the Rashideen neighborhood of Omdurman, the northern suburb of the Sudanese capital, doctor Muhammad al-Taher, along with two young men from the neighborhood who turned into nurses, receive patients to treat them using a few boxes of medicines collected by the neighbors.
“We treat children and people who suffer from chronic diseases, such as those with diabetes and high blood pressure,” the doctor, dressed in a blue T-shirt and jeans, told AFP.
The doctor confirms that with three-quarters of hospitals out of service in Khartoum, according to the Doctors Syndicate, “the death rate due to these chronic diseases is ten times greater than the victims of war” at the present time.
According to the Medical Syndicate, “12,000 patients” are threatened with death because they are unable to perform dialysis in hospitals, as the stock of medicines has run out and generators are not working due to the lack of fuel.
Since the war broke out on April 15, between the army led by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces, led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the “resistance committees”, which are popular groups organizing protests to demand democratic civil rule, have changed their activities.
Before, young members of these committees organized demonstrations against military rule. Today, they are collecting water and food or setting up clinics as they are available in the neighborhoods, which are more accessible than the few hospitals that are still functioning and that the wounded and sick cannot reach in most cases because of the fighting.
The health system in Sudan, which has been subject to an international embargo for two decades, already suffers from many problems.
However, the World Health Organization also noted a “brain drain and trained health personnel” with the onset of the war.
Maha Muhammad immediately responded to the appeal made by the resistance committees. The young Sudanese woman, dressed in a black abaya and headscarf, runs the pharmacy of the small field hospital, which provides patients “between nine in the morning and three in the afternoon, general medical services and minor surgeries,” according to the handwritten sign hanging at the entrance.
These services are provided “for free” in a country where 65% of the population lives below the poverty line. In front of shelves on which solutions and medicines were placed, this volunteer calls for “more donations” while the stock of humanitarian and medical aid in the middle of the battle zones has been looted.
“Bring your medicine.”
Humanitarian workers say they see no safe passage available for them to send aid, despite a truce officially declared and not being observed on the ground. As for the containers that came by air, most of them are still being held at customs.
Maha Muhammad Ali says: “We should be in solidarity with each other before we wait for aid from abroad, and I say to people who have medicines in their homes: bring them to us here.”
In the schoolyard, two patients arrive to register with two women sitting behind a table with a donation box.
Ashraf, another volunteer, explains, “There is fighting going on in our neighborhood, and therefore most hospitals have closed their doors, and people come here to receive free care from doctors.”
And the number of patients may increase dramatically soon, as in June begins the rainy season during which epidemics spread: malaria usually sweeps the country every year in this season, and cholera can also spread due to the lack of drinking water.
However, Ashraf prefers to remain optimistic in a country that has been hit by coups and military governments for long periods since its independence in 1956. Ashraf says: “This war will pass.” He adds, “We have seen many crises in Sudan before, and each time we think it is the last. This war will also end.”