CAIRO, June 8 (AP) — A family in Sudan’s war-torn capital has died after the United Nations children’s agency and a local charity killed more than 70 infants and older children from starvation and disease in the past few months. The orphanage has been evacuated, said Wednesday.
The tragedy at the Al-Mayqoma orphanage made headlines late last month as fighting between the Sudanese military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces raged outside.
The deaths underscore the high civilian toll since clashes broke out in mid-April between forces loyal to General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and RSF forces led by General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.
About 300 children from the Al-Mayqoma orphanage in Khartoum have been moved to “safer places” elsewhere in the northeastern African country, said UNICEF spokesman Ricardo Pires.
In an email to The Associated Press, Pires said Sudan’s social development and health ministries were responsible for the children’s care, while UNICEF provided humanitarian support, including medical care, food, educational activities and games.
The children underwent medical check-ups after the long journey to the new location, he said, adding that “health care is available to any child who needs hospital treatment.”
Pires did not provide further details, including when and where the children were taken. However, they were transported late on Tuesday to Jakarta, about 135 kilometers (85 miles) southeast of Khartoum, the head of the local charity Hadhreen, Nazim Sirag, said in a telephone interview. A new facility in Madani, capital of Zila province.
Sirag, whose charity leads humanitarian efforts to help orphanages and other care homes in Khartoum, said at least 71 children had died in Al-Mayqoma since the war in Sudan began on April 15.
A three-month-old baby was among the dead, according to a death certificate obtained by The Associated Press. The certificate lists circulatory collapse as the cause of death, but also mentions other contributing factors such as fever, dehydration, malnutrition and stunted growth.
Their relocation follows an online campaign led by local activists and international charities that intensified after 26 children died in two days at the orphanage in late May. With food and other supplies dwindling, the children have been trapped in the fighting for more than seven weeks. The facility is inaccessible as the war has turned the capital and other urban areas into battlefields.
“The safe transfer of these extremely vulnerable children to safety offers a glimmer of hope in Sudan’s ongoing conflict,” UNICEF Sudan Representative Mandeep O’Brien said in a statement. “Millions of children are still at risk across Sudan.”
The fighting has taken a heavy toll on civilians, especially children. More than 860 civilians, including at least 190 children, have been killed and thousands more injured since April 15, according to the Sudanese Doctors Association, which tracks civilian casualties. The total could be much higher.
The conflict has forced more than 1.9 million people from their homes, with some 477,000 of them crossing borders into neighboring countries, according to the United Nations migration agency. Others remain trapped in their homes, unable to escape as food and water supplies dwindle. The conflict has also disrupted the work of humanitarian groups.
There have been reports of sexual violence, including the rape of women and girls, in Khartoum and Western Darfur, where the fighting has been most intense. Nearly all reported cases of sexual assault have been blamed on the RSF, which did not respond to repeated requests for comment. (Associated Press)
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