KHARTOUM, Sudan (BP) – At least 60 infants and children have died in a Khartoum orphanage since the civil conflict began in Sudan, the Associated Press reported May 31 amid an extended ceasefire to facilitate humanitarian aid.
At least 26 of the deaths at the Al-Mayqoma orphanage occurred in a single weekend May 26-27, the AP said, with some victims as young as 3 months. Starvation was cited as a common cause of death, as fighting blocked aid to the orphanage and impeded evacuation.
More than 822 civilians died in fighting through May 19, the Sudan Doctors Syndicate announced, and more than 3,200 were injured.
Empower One, an evangelistic church-planting group seeking to provide humanitarian aid to refugees of the conflict, is encouraging Southern Baptists to support Sudanese relief efforts.
“Our desire is to provide relief for the Sudanese refugees who are arriving into South Sudan with no food or water,” Chad Vandiver, U.S. director of Empower One Network, told Baptist Press. “Many of them need new clothes. We’re wanting to provide relief to them through our church planters in South Sudan. They are ready and willing to provide relief while having Gospel conversations among the refugees.”
Vandiver is a former International Mission Board missionary, he said, who has worked with Empower One for a year in establishing “flagship church multiplication centers” in key locations in South Sudan. Centers are designed to include churches, pharmacies, clinics, primary and secondary schools, water kiosks and radio towers.
The civil fighting displaced 1.65 million Sudanese as of May 29, the U.N. International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported, with more than 1.2 million displaced internally. About 85,200 had made it to South Sudan, the IOM said.
More children could die as fighting continues, officials have warned, with the AP reporting that at least 341 children remain at Al-Mayqoma orphanage. Among them are 231 infants ranging in age from 6 months to a year, the AP said, referencing interviews with a dozen doctors, health officials and others.
“It is a catastrophic situation,” AP quoted orphanage volunteer Afkar Omar Moustafa. “This was something we expected from day one (of the fighting).”
More than 13.6 million children in Sudan need life-saving humanitarian support, UNICEF reported May 29.
A one-week ceasefire was extended five days May 29. But the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, monitoring the situation, said both sides have continued fighting in Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri, Reuters reported. Still, fighting has sufficiently decreased during the ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to reach some of those in need, according to reports.
Fighting began April 15 between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group ahead of a scheduled transitional government aimed at establishing democracy. Several attempts to strengthen human rights in the nation have failed. Sudan suffered decades of civil wars that began in the mid-20th Century before the country split in 2011, establishing Sudan as a majority Muslim north and a majority (60.5 percent) Christian South Sudan.