The World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed fears that the capturing of an internationally-funded laboratory holding infectious disease samples by fighters in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum could pose a “huge biological risk”.
Nima Saeed Abid, the WHO’s representative in Sudan said fighters had “kicked out all the technicians from the lab which is completely under the control of one of the fighting parties as a military base,” according to The Telegraph UK.
Technicians have been thrown out of the National Public Health Laboratory and cannot secure pathogens including measles, polio and cholera.
Khartoum has been engulfed by 10 days of fighting between rival generals.
“There is a huge biological risk associated with the occupation of the central public health 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.”
Fighting erupted between the Sudanese armed forces and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitaries on April 15 and has killed at least 459 people and injured 4,072, according to the WHO’s latest figures.
The laboratory’s website says it is partnered by the countries including China, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea and various international agencies including the WHO, World Food Programme and World Bank.
Staff at the laboratory have also warned that a lack of functioning generators was also adding to the biological hazards, and leading to blood stocks being spoiled.
The tussle has paralysed hospitals and other essential services, and left many stranded in their homes with dwindling supplies of food and water.
The United Nations humanitarian office (OCHA) said it had been forced to cut back on some of its activities.