Fears have been raised that a deadly virus could leak after news that Sudanese militants had seized control of the National Public Health Laboratory. Dengue fever and malaria are already spreading throughout the war-torn country of Sudan.
World Health Organization representative Nima Saeed Abid warned about the potential for biological contamination earlier this week after reports surfaced that warring factions had forced lab technicians out of the facility in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital city, so that it could be used as a military base.
The violence has destabilized Sudan’s already aid-dependent African country to the point of collapse. There were already some 16 million people in need of aid in Sudan before the violence began, and that number is only projected to grow.
Dr. Nima Saeed Abid, the WHO representative in Sudan, expressed concern that “one of the fighting parties” had seized control of the public health laboratory in Khartoum and “kicked out all of the technicians.” He did not say who exactly was to blame.
It’s perilous because they keep polio isolates in the lab, as well as measles and cholera. Abid, speaking from Port Sudan at a United Nations meeting in Geneva via video conference, revealed that he possessed cholera strains in his laboratory.
Due to the expulsion of laboratory staff and power shortages in Khartoum, WHO has warned that the biological materials stored in the lab cannot be managed correctly for medical purposes.
The laboratory can be found in the middle of Khartoum, not far from hotspots of conflict between government and opposition troops. An offshoot of the government-backed Popular Defence Forces, the Rapid Support Forces are known as the “Janjaweed” by rebels for their role in crimes perpetrated in Darfur.
The Sudanese Doctors’ Syndicate claims that the violence and a lack of medical supplies and gasoline have forced the closure of dozens of hospitals in Khartoum and across the country.