British-Sudanese woman describes ordeal in Sudan after shelling
The fighting in Sudan has put residents of the country’s capital in serious danger as they are warned that they could face a biological hazard.
This comes after one of the warring factions captured a laboratory holding various pathogens in the country’s capital, Khartoum.
This stark warning from the WHO comes as fighting between forces backing the country’s de facto leader General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and a paramilitary group called Rapid Support Forces (RSF) plunges the country into deeper crisis.
The WHO’s Nima Saeed Abid told reporters in Geneva that the “huge biological risk” comes as technicians are unable to access the lab.
He said: “This is the main concern: no accessibility to the lab technicians to go to the lab and safely contain the biological material and substances available.”
The fighting started on April 15 after both sides accused one another of attacking their respective bases.
WHO figures say that at least 459 people have been killed as hospitals and other services are overwhelmed.
The fighting has led to the UN’s humanitarian office (OCHA) scaling back its activities in the country and the International Organisation for Migration and the World Food Programme has suspended work after some of its staff were killed.
On Monday, a ceasefire was agreed between the two sides in the conflict, and while some gunshots have still been heard in Khartoum, the truce has held for now.
US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said that the ceasefire came after 48 hours of talks.
He said: “Following intense negotiation over the past 48 hours, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have agreed to implement a nationwide ceasefire starting at midnight on 24 April, to last for 72 hours.”
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Mr Blinken added: “To support a durable end to the fighting, the United States will coordinate with regional and international partners, and Sudanese civilian stakeholders, to assist in the creation of a committee to oversee the negotiation, conclusion and implementation of a permanent cessation of hostilities and humanitarian arrangements in Sudan.”
Despite efforts to restore peace, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has warned that the fighting could lead to hundres of thousands leaving the country.
They are preparing for around 270,000 refugees to make their way out of Sudan.
Prior to the recent fighting, Sudan was itself home to more than one million refugees who had fleed from conflicts elsewhere, such as in South Sudan.
A UNHCR representative for South Sudan said the agency was planning for 125,000 South Sudanese refugees temporarily residing in Sudan to return home.
A representative from Chad said the country is expecting 100,000 refugees to arrive in the country in a worst case scenario.
Other countries that border Sudan, such as Ertrea, Ethiopia, Central African Republic and Libya are also expecting many refugees to arrive.
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