About 300 infants, toddlers and older children have been rescued from an orphanage in Sudan’s capital after being trapped there while fighting raged outside, aid officials said.
According to international media reports, Thursday's evacuation came after 71 children died from hunger and illness in the facility since mid-April.
The tragedy at the Al Mayqoma orphanage made headlines late last month as fighting raged outside between Sudan’s military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
The deaths have highlighted the heavy toll inflicted on civilians since mid-April when the clashes erupted between forces loyal to Gen. Abdel Fattah al Burhan and RSF forces led by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.
About 300 children at the Al Mayqoma orphanage in Khartoum were transferred to a “safer location” elsewhere in the northeastern African nation, said Ricardo Pires, a spokesman for the UN children’s agency, UNICEF.
Sudan’s ministries of social development and health have taken charge of the children, while UNICEF has provided humanitarian support including medical care, food, educational activities and play, Pires said.
He said the children had received medical checks following their long journey to their new location, adding that “any child requiring hospitalization will have access to healthcare.
The International Committee of The Red Cross, which helped with the evacuation, said the children, aged between 1 month to 15 years, were relocated after securing a safe corridor to Madani, the capital of Jazira province, about 135 kilometres (85 miles) southeast of Khartoum.
The conflict has forced more than 1.9 million people to flee their homes, including around 477,000 who crossed into neighbouring countries, according to the UN's migration agency. Others remain trapped inside their homes, unable to escape as food and water supplies dwindle.
More than 860 civilians, including at least 190 children, were killed and thousands of others were wounded since April 15, according to Sudan’s Doctors’ Syndicate which tracks civilian casualties. The tally is likely to be much higher.