UN says Sudan orphanage evacuated after more than 70 children die amid ongoing fighting

CAIRO (AP) – An orphanage in Sudan’s war-torn capital has been evacuated following the deaths of more than 70 infants, toddlers and older children from hunger and disease over the past two months, the United Nations children’s agency and a local charity said on Wednesday. .

The Al-Mayqoma orphanage tragedy made headlines late last month as fighting raged outside between the Sudanese army and paramilitary rapid support forces.

The deaths highlighted the heavy toll inflicted on civilians since mid-April, when clashes erupted 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 a “safer place” elsewhere in the northeast African country, said Ricardo Pires, spokesman for the UN agency. United for Children, UNICEF.

Sudan’s social development and health ministries took care of the children, while UNICEF provided humanitarian support including medical care, food, educational activities and games, Pires said in an email. email to the Associated Press.

He said the children had received medical checks after their long journey to their new location, adding that “any child requiring hospitalization will have access to health care”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which helped with the evacuation, said 70 guards had also been moved with the children to the new facility.

“They (the children) went through an incredibly difficult time as the fighting raged, without access to proper healthcare,” the ICRC said on Twitter Wednesday evening. He attached a photo showing a woman on a bus feeding formula.

Neither UNICEF nor the ICRC gave further details, including where and when the children were taken. However, Nazim Sirag, an activist who heads the local charity Hadhreen, said in a telephone interview that they were transported to a new facility in Madani, the capital of Jazira province, around 135 kilometers (85 miles) southeast of Khartoum. .

Sirag, whose charity has led humanitarian efforts to help the orphanage and other nursing homes in Khartoum, said at least 71 children have died in Al-Mayqoma since the start of Sudan’s war April 15.

Among the dead were babies as young as three months old, according to death certificates obtained by the AP. The certificates listed circulatory collapse as the cause of death, but also listed other contributing factors such as fever, dehydration, malnutrition and stunted growth.

Their relocation follows an online campaign by local activists and international charities, which intensified after 26 children died in two days at the orphanage in late May. The children had been trapped in the fighting for more than seven weeks as food and other supplies dwindled. The facility was inaccessible because the war had turned the capital and other urban areas into battlefields.

“The safe movement of these incredibly vulnerable children to a place of safety offers a ray of light amid the ongoing conflict in Sudan,” Mandeep O’Brien, UNICEF Representative in Sudan, said in a statement. “Several million children remain 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 have been injured since April 15, according to the Sudanese Doctors Syndicate which tracks civilian casualties. The tally is likely to be much higher.

The conflict has forced more than 1.9 million people to flee their homes, including around 477,000 who crossed into neighboring countries, according to the UN migration agency. Others remain stuck inside their homes, unable to escape as food and water supplies dwindle. The clashes have also disrupted the work of humanitarian groups.

Sexual violence has been reported, including rape of women and girls in Khartoum and the western Darfur region, which has seen some of the worst fighting in the conflict. Almost all of the reported cases of sexual assault have been blamed on RSF, which did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

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