Doctors in Sudan recount horrors of ongoing fighting at hospitals
ERIC DEGGANS, HOST:
When the warring sides in Sudan agreed to a limited cease-fire, they promised to uphold some basic humanitarian principles. One is pulling their fighters out of hospitals. Sudanese doctors say both sides are violating that and continuing to threaten medical facilities in the country. NPR's Michele Kelemen caught up with some Sudanese American doctors who are sounding the alarm.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The scenes from hospitals in Khartoum are harrowing. Paramilitary forces have taken over some medical facilities, and the rival army forces have bombed them. Sudanese doctors now say only about a third of the hospitals in the capital are functioning and just barely.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).
KELEMEN: This video haunts Yasir Elamin, an oncologist living in Texas. He's with an aid group called the Sudanese American Physicians Association and says the video is from an obstetrician who had just performed a cesarean section in a Khartoum hospital.
YASIR ELAMIN: And while she was doing that, there was a power outage. So they all pulled their cell phones, and they had to complete the operation with the light of their cell phones. And she has a very powerful video to say about them completing the operation under the cell phone light.
KELEMEN: There's another story that sticks with his colleague, Mohamed Eisa, a gastroenterologist from Pittsburgh. He said one pediatrician in Sudan tried to save a child on a ventilator when the electricity went out by manually pumping air with what's called an Ambu Bag.
MOHAMED EISA: He was doing that for 24 hours, manually pumping it with his bare hands for 24 hours. Everyone is surprised that he was able to do it for 24 hours. Unfortunately, afterward and for the worse, he had to let go.
KELEMEN: And the patient died?
EISA: Oh, absolutely. Right away.
KELEMEN: Doctors in Sudan say about 1,000 civilians have died since the conflict broke out in April. Eisa, who was there at the time, thinks the death toll is higher.
EISA: And there is also a huge number from the people that have died in their homes. No one knows about them. The bodies that are still, you know, spread out, you know, Khartoum that I have seen it for myself when I was trying to flee from Khartoum to Port Sudan, I saw dozens of bodies on the sides of the street.
KELEMEN: He lost a colleague, another Sudanese American doctor, who was in Khartoum taking care of his family. The doctors came here to Washington to meet State Department and U.S. aid officials, hoping to keep the focus on the situation in their native Sudan. For now, they say it's mostly a war between two rival generals. But Mohamed Eisa is worried that the conflict could spiral out of control.
EISA: We hope that we don't get to the point of no return. We didn't get there yet, but we are approaching there very quickly.
KELEMEN: His colleague, Yasir Elamin says he's worried that the conflict could inflame ethnic tensions.
ELAMIN: This is not like another Libya, another Syria. It's not there yet. I think it can disintegrate into that. But we - there is a room for us to intervene in a way that would prevent it from becoming another Syria, another sad story on the news.
KELEMEN: But he says the U.S. and the international community have to put far more pressure on the Sudanese generals to get their forces out of hospitals, open humanitarian corridors and allow doctors and nurses to get back to work. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.