Red Cross evacuates 300 children from Khartoum orphanage

Smoke rises over Khartoum, Sudan, Wednesday, June 7, 2023. PHOTO | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Ammar Ammar, from the UN's children's agency UNICEF, told AFP that before the evacuation a number of children "had died at the orphanage" from various illnesses.

Infants and special needs children were among 300 children evacuated from a Khartoum orphanage where they were caught in the crossfire of Sudan's raging battles, the Red Cross said Thursday.
"Three hundred children and 70 caretakers were evacuated from the Maygoma orphanage" in Khartoum, said Alyona Synenko, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
She told AFP they were taken to safety in the city of Madani 200 kilometres (around 120 miles) south of Khartoum, following a request to intervene from Sudan's ministry of social development.
Upon arrival, the children were transferred to the care of ministry staff.
The evacuees were aged between one month and 15 years, said ICRC head of delegation in Sudan Jean-Christophe Sandoz in a separate statement.
"They spent incredibly difficult moments in an area where the conflict has been raging (for weeks) without access to proper healthcare, an especially hard situation for children with special needs," Sandoz said.
"Some of the evacuated children suffer from mental health conditions that could be exacerbated by the stressful conflict environment they were living in," he added.
Ammar Ammar, from the UN's children's agency UNICEF, told AFP that before the evacuation a number of children "had died at the orphanage" from various illnesses.
"We confirm the deaths but we cannot provide a specific number," said Ammar, UNICEF's regional communications chief.
He said the deaths were caused by "fever and dehydration" as well as general "malnutrition".
Fighting has raged in Sudan since mid-April between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo -- commonly known as Hemeti -- who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Most of the fighting has taken place in and around the capital, but the violence has also spread to other parts of the country, notably the western region of Darfur.
The Maygoma orphanage is in central Khartoum in one of the neighbourhoods worst affected by the fighting.
Synenko told AFP that some of the children "were very weak" and that the operation to get them out to safety required guarantees of safe passage from the warring generals.
"We are talking about children who need special medical attention of which they had been deprived for weeks," she said.
Since the fighting began on April 15, more than 1,800 people have been killed, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.
According to UNICEF, more than 13.6 million children in the country are in need of humanitarian assistance to survive.
Among them are 620,000 suffering from severe acute malnutrition, "half of whom may die if not helped in time", the UN agency warned last month said.
Sudan was already poverty-stricken before the war, with a third of its 45 million people relying on aid, and the public health sector has long been fragile.
According to the doctors' union, three quarters of hospitals in combat zones are no longer in service.