World Medical Association calls for immediate ceasefire in Sudan

Some of the residential buildings damaged in fighting are seen in Khartoum, Sudan, Thursday, April 20, 2023. [AP Photo]

The World Medical Association (MWA) has called on world leaders to rally for an immediate ceasefire in Sudan.

Through its President Dr Osahon Enabulele, the association said the leaders must call on boths sides to ensure health facilities do not become targets in the conflicts.

This comes even as Sudan’s top general said the military is committed to a transition to civilian rule, in his first speech since brutal fighting between his forces and the country’s powerful paramilitary began nearly a week ago.

In a video message released early Friday to mark the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Burhan said, “We are confident that we will overcome this ordeal with our training, wisdom and strength, preserving the security and unity of the state, allowing us to be entrusted with the safe transition to civilian rule.”

The army chief’s statements came as his rivals claimed they would implement a three-day cease-fire for the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, based on “international and regional understandings.” There was no immediate response from Burhan to the cease-fire announcement.

Since he took control of the country in an October 2021 coup, Burhan and his rival, commander of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, have repeatedly promised to shepherd the country toward civilian rule. However, both have failed to sign political agreements that would see their institutions lose power and open the way for democratic elections.

On Thursday, Burhan ruled out negotiations with the rival Rapid Support Forces, saying it would only accept its surrender.

The two sides continued to battle in central Khartoum, the capital, and other parts of the country, threatening to wreck international attempts to broker a longer cease-fire.

The military’s statement raised the likelihood of a renewed surge in the nearly weeklong violence that has left over 300 people dead and more than 3,000 injured according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Alarm has grown that the country’s medical system was on the verge of collapse, with many hospitals forced to shut down and others running out of supplies.

The association which is meeting in Nairobi for their 23rd council session between April 20-23, 2023, has further voted for an emergency resolution calling on the warring parties to ‘respect the ethical principles of health care.

These includes medical neutrality to guarantee the safety of patients and health personnel and take immediate steps to ensure that they are not targeted or affected by the fighting.

The association said the two sides must also ensure safe passage of health care workers and patients where evacuation is required.

Kenya Medical Association President Dr Simon Kigondu said the Nairobi meeting is a key stakeholder engagement forum for Physicians worldwide and ultimately contributes to improving the health and well-being of all people globally.

“The WMA and KMA have committed to uphold the highest standards of medical ethics and professionalism, while working towards achieving universal health coverage and better health outcomes for all people around the world,”  he said.

Kigondu said the discussions and decisions made at the 223rd WMA Council Session will contribute to advancing these goals and promoting the well-being of physicians and patients alike.

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