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Sudan fires hospital director for cholera comments

June 9 - 2017 KHARTOUM / RABAK
People walk towards a cardiac surgery emergeny room in Khartoum (Ashraf)
People walk towards a cardiac surgery emergeny room in Khartoum (Ashraf)

The Ministry of Health dismissed the director of the Omdurman Emergency Hospital in its attempt to censor cholera information from appearing in the public agenda. Opposition party members who organised activities to curb the spread of the disease have been detained.​

Hospital director Dr Hussein Akar rejected the decision of the Health Ministry to keep silent about the spread of the epidemic in various states of Sudan and mentioned 'cholera' in the state-owned Omdurman Emergency Hospital.

His dismissal was reported by the National Epidemiological Corporation, which found that the number of cholera cases is increasing in Khartoum and White Nile states. Corporation member Dr El Fateh Omar El Sayed said that cases emerged in a couple of new villages in White Nile and districts in Khartoum, in addition to new cases in El Gezira and El Gedaref.

Meanwhile the Health Ministry reported that thirteen people died of 'acute watery diarrhoea' and that 857 people have been infected from January until June. Health Minister Bahar Idris Abugarda presented a new report on cholera. He said that the number of deaths and infections has decreased following the intervention of his ministry.

Last week the minister told the parliament that between August 2016 and May 2017 the ministry recorded that 292 patients died and 14,659 people infected with the disease which the government so far has refused to call by its name, cholera.

Northern State, White Nile

In Northern State, Governor Ali El Awad confirmed the death of a person and the infection of six others in a press statement on Thursday.

A person died in Hashaba El Bahar in White Nile on Thursday morning, health sources reported to Radio Dabanga. “Fifteen people have died in Dugja, west of Kosti, since the outbreak of the epidemic here.”

Health centres in Teiba and Manara, near El Gezira Aba and state capital Rabak, each received one extra cholera patient, said local civil society organisations' leader Abdelrahman El Siddig.

“Tashrifiya - near Asalaya - and El Marabee, the villages west and south of Kosti, and Asalaya have all witnessed cases of cholera.”

El Banjadeed hospital in Khartoum North's El Haj Yousif recorded thirteen new cases of cholera, bringing the total number of cases in the isolation ward to 32, after reporting one death on Tuesday.

“Cholera victims prefer to stay indoors, reluctant of visiting badly equipped health centres.”

El Ezba, a northern Khartoum district, recorded three new cases of cholera: the total number of patients stands at 38. Volunteers in El Ezba, working on environmental sanitation and in health awareness teams, reported to Radio Dabanga that cholera patients and people suspecting of being infected, have been reluctant to go to the district health centre. “They prefer to stay indoors because of the lack of treatment services in the centres. But they are worried about transmitting infection to other family members.”

Censoring cholera

Members of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) arrested three members of the Sudanese Congress Party who organised cholera epidemic awareness campaigns in El Haj Yousif on Wednesday evening. They have been taken to an unknown destination.

 As the Sudanese government has still not officially acknowledged the epidemic, reporting on the disease has been outlawed by security authorities. 

The party's deputy-president, Khaled Omar, said the NISS arrested Ahmed Abuzeid, Adel Haddasa and Aiman Ali Ismail. “The detainees organised activities to raise the public awareness about the cholera epidemic, which has spread to seven districts in the capital, in the public market in El Haj Yousif this week.

“The arrests are a clear violation of the constitution of the country, a violation of human rights and an attempt to cover up the outbreak of cholera. We're concerned about their whereabouts and safety.”

The SCP added its voice to the call for the official declaration of the cholera epidemic by the Sudanese government, to provide information to the media and inform the public about the facts.

In April, security authorities arrested journalist Ammar El Daw, the El Gedaref correspondent of El Sayha newspaper, who published an article relating to cholera.

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