SUDAN: MSF suspends delivery of vital care in Khartoum’s Turkish hospital after more than a year of violent incidents at the facility

SUDAN: MSF suspends delivery of vital care in Khartoum’s Turkish hospital after more than a year of violent incidents at the facility

Nairobi, Wednesday 10 July – After over a year of violent incidents both inside and outside the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-supported Turkish Hospital in Khartoum – including threats made against the lives of MSF staff – MSF has taken the decision to evacuate its team from the hospital. This decision has not been taken lightly. MSF had managed to provide continuous hands-on, life-saving treatment in the facility for almost 14 months, despite many, often deliberate, obstructions from the warring parties. However, as a result of recent events, this hands-on support is now no longer possible.

“The situation in the Turkish Hospital, located in an RSF-controlled area, has become untenable. Multiple violent incidents have taken place inside and outside the premises over the past 12 months, and the lives of our staff have been repeatedly threatened,” says Claire Nicolet, head of MSF’s emergency response in Sudan. “Most-recently, on the nights of June 17 and 18, dozens of wounded combatants were brought to the Turkish Hospital, and our team was aggressively woken up as Kalashnikovs were fired into their bedrooms. This type of violence against our staff is unacceptable. Hospitals and health facilities should be protected and respected by the warring parties as sanctuaries for the sick and wounded where health workers can safely deliver medical care. They cannot have their lives put at-risk as they try to save the lives of other people.”

Over the past year, MSF staff working at the Turkish hospital have been frequently harassed both inside the facility and on the street going to and from work. Many have been threatened with arrest. Indeed, at the start of June, one MSF employee was arrested inside the hospital by two armed men, taken to an unknown location, and severely beaten.

“The team are physically and mentally exhausted. Due to the blockade that has been imposed by the Sudanese authorities since September – forbidding the transportation of medical supplies and humanitarian personnel into RSF-controlled areas – the team in the Turkish hospital have been working without a break for the past 10 months,” Nicolet explains. “The blockade means it has not been possible for us to bring in a new team to replace them, and they have been working tirelessly to keep the hospital open under intense pressure.”

The Turkish hospital remains open thanks to the presence of the Ministry of Health staff. ​ However, surgery will no longer be possible without the presence of the MSF staff who have been evacuated and the future of the hospital is uncertain. Since the start of the war the Turkish hospital has been a crucial part of the health system, serving patients not only from Khartoum, but also from as far away as Wad Madani in Al Jazirah state, where MSF was also forced to suspend operations in May 2024 due to repeated security incidents and obstructions to bring in staff and supplies similar to those impacting on Khartoum.

Before MSF established an emergency room and expanded the capacity of the operating theatre in the Turkish hospital in mid-May 2023, it was a specialist women’s and children’s hospital. Almost 80 per cent of all surgical procedures in the hospital over the past year were life-saving caesarean sections for women experiencing complications during pregnancy and childbirth. As a result of these repeated security incidents, all surgery in the hospital has now stopped. MSF also provided ante-natal care, post-natal care, family planning, ran the paediatric intensive care unit, the inpatient therapeutic feeding centre for children with severe acute malnutrition, and the neonatal unit – the only neonatal unit in the whole of Khartoum. MSF’s hands-on support to these activities has also now been suspended.

Bashair Teaching Hospital in Khartoum, also supported by MSF, has faced multiple armed incursions over the past few months as well, and between October 2023 and January 2024, MSF was forced to suspend surgery in the hospital. MSF continues to work in this hospital in spite of these incidents. The security situation across the board has deteriorated significantly and in Khartoum especially.  ​  

MSF urges the warring parties to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure – including hospitals, other health structures. For facilities that are able to remain operational, it is vital that medical supplies and humanitarian workers are provided with the necessary permits to be able to move across frontlines. Due to the ongoing blockade imposed on humanitarian organisations by the Sudanese authorities, many facilities are struggling to remain open and the lives and health of millions of people in Khartoum and other parts of the country are at-risk. ​

Notes to editors

Turkish hospital data – from January 2024 to June 2024

  • We received over 10,600 patients in the emergency room at the Turkish hospital, and were seeing 55 to 60 patients on average each day
  • In the outpatient department, we treated over 11,360 adults and over 7,440 children
  • In the inpatient department, we admitted 243 babies to the neonatal ward, 1,670 children to the children’s ward, and 1,340 adults
  • We delivered 1,338 babies (both through normal delivery and C-sections)
    • 77 per cent of all surgeries were c-sections
  • We carried out 6,352 ante natal care consultations

Background to the Turkish hospital

When the war began in April 2023, the Turkish Hospital was just a small maternity and paediatric hospital with no emergency room and only a small operating theatre where caesarean sections were performed. The facility also had a small dialysis centre, but it had no capacity to perform war surgery or to deal with mass influxes of casualties.

However, when the fighting began and many health facilities in Khartoum became non-functional, the Turkish Hospital was one of the few that was able to remain open. MSF teams who were in Khartoum were able to donate supplies in support, and were then able to support the Ministry of Health by expanding the functions of the hospital in mid-May 2023.

MSF increased the capabilities of the operating theatre, opened an emergency room, trained staff in how to respond to mass casualty events and increased the number of health workers in the facility. By August 2023, MSF had also begun to support the maternity and paediatric departments, and the hospital remained the only facility providing specialist treatment to sick children and pregnant women in the city.

Elsewhere in Sudan, hospitals are also coming under attack. In El Fasher, North Darfur, there have been eight incidents over the past eight weeks alone, and hospital have been forced to close one by one. Currently, there is only one hospital – Saudi hospital – in the city with surgical capacity and the ability to treat mass influxes of casualties. It has been hit three times since the fighting escalated on May 10. Its predecessor, South hospital – which was just a simple maternity hospital with no surgical capacity at the start of the war – had become the main referral hospital for the whole of North Darfur state until it became non-functional on June 8 when armed men entered the facility and looted it. Four incidents preceded South hospital’s closure. The paediatric hospital in El Fasher also became non-functional on May 11 when a bomb dropped by the SAF landed just 50 metres from the facility causing severe damage and the death of two children in the ICU. The original paediatric hospital was looted at the start of the war in April 2023, and the children were evacuated to the facility that was hit on May 11. This facility has now once again been relocated, but the number of available beds for children has reduced by more than half as a result.

Hannah Hoexter Senior Press Officer, MSF UK




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