WHO warns ‘high risk of biological hazard’ in Sudan after lab with contagious diseases seized by fighters: report

A World Health Organization (WHO) official in Sudan has reportedly warned that there is a “high risk of biological hazard” following the seizure of a laboratory by fighters that contains samples of contagious diseases, calling it an “extremely, extremely dangerous” situation.

Among the samples at risk in the central public health lab are smallpox, measles, cholera, and polio. Other highly infectious disease samples are also housed there.

Dr. Nima Saeed Abid, the WHO representative in Sudan, spoke at a press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, via a video link. He said technicians were unable to gain access to the National Public Health Laboratory to secure the materials, according to Reuters.

“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,” he said, declining to divulge which side had seized the facility.


“There is a huge biological risk associated with the occupation of the central public health lab… by one of the fighting parties,” Abid bluntly commented, according to Agence France-Presse.

The doctor also reported that at least 459 people had been killed in the fighting and 4,072 have been injured, Reuters reported.

Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared that he had helped to broker a new 72-hour cease-fire. It was an extension of the three-day holiday cease-fire. After the announcement, the Sudanese military, which is commanded by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the rival Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group led by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, both said they would observe the cease-fire. Saudi Arabia was also reportedly involved in the negotiations.

“This cease-fire aims to establish humanitarian corridors, allowing citizens and residents to access essential resources, healthcare, and safe zones, while also evacuating diplomatic missions,” the Rapid Support Forces proclaimed in a statement.

The Sudanese military made a similar announcement and added it would abide by the truce “on the condition that the rebels commit to stopping all hostilities.”

Immediately after those declarations, heavy gunfire and explosions in the capital of Khartoum could be heard. Fighting resumed after the short-lived cease-fire failed. The Associated Press reported that residents claimed warplanes were flying overhead.

According to Fox News, “Several previous cease-fires declared since the April 15 outbreak of fighting were not observed, although intermittent lulls during the weekend’s major Muslim holiday allowed for dramatic evacuations of hundreds of diplomats, aid workers, and other foreigners by air and land. For many Sudanese, the departure of foreigners and closure of embassies is a terrifying sign that international powers expect a worsening of the fighting that has already pushed the population into disaster.”

The clashes have paralyzed hospitals and other essential services in Sudan and left many people stranded in their homes with dwindling supplies of food and water. The WHO has reported 14 attacks on health facilities since the fighting began and has since relocated its staff to safety.

The United Nations humanitarian office (OCHA) has also been forced to cut back on activities in parts of Sudan due to the intense fighting.

At least five aid workers have been killed since this conflict began on April 15 and the two UN agencies who lost staff, the International Organization for Migration and the World Food Programme, have suspended their activities due to that fact.

“In areas where intense fighting has hampered our humanitarian operations, we have been forced to reduce our footprint,” Jens Laerke, who is the spokesperson for the OCHA, stated. “But we are committed to continue to deliver for the people of Sudan.”

Patrick Youssef, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Regional Director for Africa, urged other countries to continue pressuring Sudan to find a “long-lasting solution.”

The American embassy in Sudan has been successfully evacuated but thousands of American citizens are said to still be stranded.

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