Sudanese pharmacists sound alarm bells

A faki (traditional Muslim healer) prepares a treatment against mental illnesses. The client has to smell the smoke that comes up from a piece of paper with Koran verses written on it, fired with charcoal, dried roots, and spices. (Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID)

Sudan’s pharmaceutical supply is in serious danger, pharmacists warn. Hundreds of pharmacies and distribution centres have been plundered, mainly by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Half of the factories are damaged whilst the production of medicines remains halted.

The Professional Pharmacists Association (PPA) said in a report on Sunday that 41 pharmaceutical companies were plundered and damaged by RSF soldiers. About 50 per cent of the pharmaceutical factories in Khartoum are also damaged. The rest of the pharmaceutical companies are not able to continue production due to the war.

Prominent PPA member Doctor Mohamed Jaafar told Radio Dabanga that, according to their records, at least 216 pharmacies were plundered by RSF soldiers and street gangs: 103 in Khartoum, 48 in Omdurman, and 65 in Khartoum North (Khartoum Bahri).

“In reality, these numbers must be many times the size of what has been monitored so far, especially in Khartoum and Darfur,” he said.

The report reported a scarcity of medicines in all fields, including essential medication for patients with cancer, diabetes, malaria, cardiac cases, kidney failure, and other life-saving medical supplies.

Two months ago, the Sudanese Ministry of Health already warned that Sudan was facing severe medical shortages and the situation has only worsened since.

The shortages have led to a huge rise in the prices of private-sector medicines.

It is also difficult for patients to access the scarce supplies because they are unable to move or relocate due to the security situation. Many pharmacies have been closed down so most people would have to travel far to access medication.

A number of suicides have occurred due to the lack of medication for psychiatric and neurological diseases, the report indicated.


According to PPA, the situation in Darfur is even worse. Jaafar explained that “Most of the pharmacies in El Geneina [West Darfur] and several pharmaceutical distribution centres and pharmacies in Nyala [South Darfur] were damaged. Many medical supplies stores in the region have been destroyed as well.”

In June, Radio Dabanga reported that the RSF plundered a medical storage facility for the distribution of medicines to health centres across Central Darfur. The Zalingei Teaching Hospital was forced to close as well, which was the main referral hospital in Central Darfur and thus played an important role in the entire region.

The stock of medicines in El Wehda South Hospital in the South Darfur capital of Nyala will not last for more than three weeks, Medical Director Hind Abdallah told Radio Dabanga yesterday. “We are also short of fuel to run generators, whilst medical waste is accumulating and water is rising because of the rains.”

At the moment, the hospital is operating at maximum capacity thanks to the effort of a number of specialists, general practitioners, medical assistants, and interns, she said.

The doctor lamented that vaccinations for children have stopped due to the lack of vaccines “at a time when the six known childhood diseases begin to appear again”. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) recently appealed to the Sudanese health authorities to expedite measles vaccines as measles cases are rising.

Herbal medicine

In Kass, northwest of Nyala, people told Radio Dabanga the lack of life-saving medicines caused patients to resort to herbal medicines. 

Ahmed, a 50-year-old government employee and father of four in the town, has been suffering from diabetes for years and used to take a dose of insulin each day. Since mid-July, when fighting broke out between the RSF and the Sudanese army in the town, he has not been able to take the required dose.

The plundering and destruction of health facilities and pharmacies in the town led to the depletion of most medicines, including insulin.

Ahmed told Radio Dabanga that patients now use traditional medicines such as herbs.

Last week, an administrative officer in Kass also alerted Radio Dabanga that those injured during the violence in Kass “now rely on herbs and other natural treatments, as the medicine stocks in the town are depleted”. 

The hospital of Kass “in particular lacks essential medical supplies, examination aids, and blood transfusion resources,” he said.

The Sudanese Doctors Union reported last week that “70 per cent of people in conflict areas lack access to healthcare”, with a critical shortage of medical aid in functioning hospitals across Sudan.

People in Kordofan are also medicine facing shortages as a result of RSF attacks on vehicles, confiscation of medicines, and the imposition of passage fees, Doctor Jaafar said.

He said that at least six pharmacies in El Obeid, North Kordofan, were plundered.


The PPA report said that the transport of stocks from some pharmaceutical factories, companies, and pharmacies to regions outside Khartoum has alleviated some of the severity of the medicine crisis, “but this effect will not last long”.

Pharmaceutical aid coming from abroad through air bridges contains important emergency and life-saving medicines, but for critical cases only, Doctor Jaafar said.  

The PPA called on Sudanese people “to collect surplus medicines in their homes and deliver them to the nearest pharmacy to review their validity and determine if they can still be used in order to contribute to alleviating the current crisis”.

The PPA warned of the worsening of pharmaceutical scarcity in the coming period unless urgent interventions take place.

The association urged the Sudanese Ministry of Finance to allocate the necessary financial resources to the National Fund for Medical Supplies to play its role in providing essential medicines, emergency medicines, consumables. and medical equipment.

Last month, Sudanese economists estimated the economic loss caused by the ongoing war at roughly $100 million per day, while the value of property and goods plundered was estimated at another $40 billion. Economist Haisam Fathi told Radio Dabanga that “the magnitude of the losses of military equipment of both sides also seriously affects the state budget”.