Sudanese help one another find medicine, water as state collapses into war

By Mai Shams El-Din

CAIRO (Reuters) – As Sudan collapsed into fighting last week that has trapped civilians in their city neighbourhoods, cutting off access to water, food and healthcare, community groups, websites and apps have sprung up to mobilise medical help and find basic supplies.

The violent power struggle between the heads of the army and a big paramilitary force, who previously governed together, has killed hundreds of civilians and plunged Sudan into a humanitarian catastrophe, bringing war to the capital Khartoum, which is unused to such violence.

One existing group, a protest committee that had organised demonstrations against the ruling military council, has transformed into a kind of grassroots health service. Elsewhere, individuals have used technology to match local stocks of food, fresh water and medicine to neighbourhoods in need.

“Once war started, that same evening we got together to start figuring out how to volunteer,” said Azza Surketty, part of the Maamoura Resistance Committee which formed during a mass uprising in 2019 and helped organise relief in the Maamoura district of the capital during the COVID pandemic and mass floods.

It mobilised a team of surgeons and other medics, reopened a local health centre for urgent cases and set up a hotline for less urgent ones. It has handled at least 25 medical cases since the fighting began, Surketty said.

“Doctors help us treat a lot of cases including gunshots. But it gets difficult when we have a lot of bleeding, which needs a hospital,” she said, adding that two patients had died for lack of adequate supplies.

From his home in central Saudi Arabia, web developer Freed Adel, 30, has turned his personal website into a platform where people can either request or offer assistance based on their location.

“People started sharing what they need on social media networks and there are others who have available supplies that they share too. I had this idea to group all these cases in one place,” he said.

His site has mostly helped people in Khartoum, where much of the fiercest fighting has taken place.

“Most of the needs are medical due to the lack of hospital services, medical staff and the fact that people cannot reach hospitals,” Adel said.


Elsewhere in Khartoum, 25 year-old doctor Makram Waleed has built a 1,200-strong WhatsApp community split into groups for the capital’s different districts for people to share information about supplies of basics.

“Whenever I look at a certain area, I find people are actually communicating and we managed to get some people medicine and food,” Waleed said.

The biggest requirement for most people was drinking water, he said, but there were also a lot of requests for medicines, particularly for diabetes and blood pressure.

“We don’t have money or financial aid. We’re just trying to ease communication between people,” said.

With most of Khartoum’s hospitals shut down, and the few still open offering only limited services, medical needs have been intense.

Doctorbase, a health app run by Ahmed Mujtaba that previously had a network of 30 doctors, has switched from helping Sudanese deal with the existing problems linked to poverty to aiding with those impacted by violence.

Dozens of doctors from around the world have signed up since the fighting erupted on April 15 to volunteer time to advise Sudanese in urgent need of medical help using the app, said Mujtaba, who lives in Canada.

“Unfortunately the last two days we’ve seen a couple of cases that were urgent. They’re not meant to be treated using Telehealth, they actually need to go to a hospital,” Mujtaba said.

(Reporting by Seham Eloraby, Mai Shams El-Din and Nafisa Eltahir; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)