Children evacuated from orphanage where dozens died in Sudan’s capital

CAIRO (Reuters) – About 300 children have been evacuated from an orphanage in Sudan’s capital Khartoum where dozens of orphans were found last month to have died since mid-April due to nearby fighting between rival military factions.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which facilitated the evacuation late on Wednesday, said the children aged between 1 and 15 had been taken to a safer location in Wad Madani, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) southeast of Khartoum.

The ICRC said in its initial statement that 280 children and 70 caretakers had been evacuated, and an ICRC spokesperson said the number of evacuated children had risen to 300 by Thursday morning.

That number was confirmed by Siddig Frini, general manager at the Khartoum state ministry of social development, which oversees care centres.

The evacuation offered “a ray of light in the midst of the ongoing conflict in Sudan”, said Mandeep O’Brien, the representative in Sudan for U.N. children’s agency UNICEF.

On May 29, Reuters reported that at least 50 children had died – dozens of them babies – at the state-run orphanage, known as Mygoma, since the start of the conflict in Khartoum on April 15.

An orphanage official and doctor who works there said the deaths were mainly caused by malnourishment, dehydration and infections as most staff were kept away by the fighting.

Hadhreen, a volunteer group that has been helping at the orphanage, said on Wednesday it had confirmed the deaths of 71 children at the orphanage since the conflict started.

No official death toll has been issued. The orphanage was home to about 400 young children before the conflict began.

Frini declined to provide figures on the death toll. The director of the orphanage and the health ministry couldn’t immediately be reached.

“Many millions of children remain at risk across Sudan,” UNICEF’s O’Brien said in a statement. “Their lives and their futures are being endangered by this conflict every day.”

(Reporting by Maggie Michael and Nafisa Eltahir; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Jan Harvey)