8 August 2023 - Sudan

Khartoum: Doctors warn of disease catastrophe due to mounting dead bodies

Pree Release

KHARTOUM, 8 August 2023 – Thousands of corpses are reported to be decomposing on the streets of Khartoum, with morgues at breaking point due to power outages and insufficient capacity to store the bodies, putting families and children at increasing risk of diseases, said Save the Children.

The capital of war-torn Sudan has suffered intermittent power and communications blackouts since conflict erupted in April, with battles intensifying on the city streets in recent weeks.

Prolonged power shortages have left the city's morgues without refrigeration, leaving bodies to decompose in the heat, and causing the risk of major diseases outbreaks in the city. There are also no medical staff left at the morgues, leaving the bodies exposed and untreated, according to the Sudanese Doctors Syndicate, a doctor's union.

Out of 89 main hospitals in the capital and states, 71 are out of service, with the remainder operating at partial capacity. Some health facilities have been occupied by armed groups, taking life-saving treatment from millions of children and their families, with at least 53 attacks on health care resulting in 11 deaths since April.

A horrifying combination of rising numbers of corpses, severe water shortages, non-functioning hygiene and sanitation services, and lack of water treatment options are also prompting fears of a cholera outbreak in the city. The absence of a functioning public health laboratory , through which a cholera outbreak would normally be reported, makes it difficult to assess the state of the crisis, however Khartoum typically experiences cholera outbreaks during the annual rainy season, which began in June.

Across the country, at least 2,435 children have been killed or injured since the conflict started, with recent clashes in the capital killing and injuring dozens, including children.

On 18 July, a child was killed in shelling, and on 11 July, several homeless children were wounded by stray bullets when clashes took place in a market in the Omdurman are of Khartoum. On 25 and 27 June, two children were killed and another two wounded in artillery shelling across the city, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)

Dr. Bashir Kamal Eldin Hamid, Save the Children's Health and Nutrition Director, said:

"The healthcare system in Sudan is hanging by a thread. As casualties increase, hospitals are closing, completely emptied of medicines and doctors, and looted of any remaining supplies.

"The inability to give those who have died a dignified burial is yet another element of the suffering of families in Khartoum. We are seeing a health crisis in the making, on top of a crisis of sorrow, fear and pain.

"Where hospitals are still open, they are stretched beyond capacity and nearly non-functional due to staff fatigue and a lack of supplies."

Save the Children is calling on parties to the conflict to agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities in Sudan and find a peaceful solution to the conflict. Every child, no matter where they live, deserves to live a safe, happy and healthy life, free from violence. It is critical for the survival of children and families that we see an end to this fighting. This is only way to protect children from violence and other violations of their rights.

Save the Children has worked in Sudan since 1983 supporting children and families affected by conflict, displacement, extreme poverty, hunger and a lack of basic services. Many of the children and families we serve are among the most vulnerable and hardest to reach.

Save the Children currently supports nearly over 100 health and nutrition facilities across Sudan, including eight mobile clinics. Since the escalation of the conflict, Save the Children has imported some 37 tons of emergency medical supplies and drugs, and has implemented a large vaccination campaign targeting children to protect them against preventable diseases, such as cholera, polio, and measles.


For more information please contact:

  • Katharina Schroeder Katharina.Schroeder@savethechildren.org
  • Daphnee Cook, Daphnee.Cook@savethechildren.org;

For out of hours media requests please email media@savethechildren.org.uk or +44 (0) 7831 650409

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