Trapped by Sudan fighting, dozens of infants, toddlers and children died in Khartoum orphanage
This image taken from video shows toddlers in the Foster Home for Orphans in Khartoum, Sudan, May 2023. At least 60 infants, toddlers and older children perished over the past six weeks while trapped in horrific conditions in the orphanage in Sudan's capital as fighting raged outside. (AP Photo/Heba Abdalla)

CAIRO (AP) — At least 60 infants, toddlers and older children perished over the past six weeks while trapped in harrowing conditions in an orphanage in Sudan's capital as fighting raged outside.

Most died from lack of food and from fever. Twenty-six died in two days over the weekend.

The extent of the children's suffering emerged from interviews with more than a dozen doctors, volunteers, health officials and workers at the Al-Mayqoma orphanage. The Associated Press also reviewed dozens of documents, images, and videos showing the deteriorating conditions at the facility.

Video taken by orphanage workers shows bodies of children tightly bundled in white sheets awaiting burial. In other footage, two dozen toddlers wearing only diapers sit on the floor of a room, many of them wailing, as a woman carries two metal jugs of water. Another woman sits on the floor with her back to the camera, rocking back and forth and apparently cradling a child.

An orphanage worker later explained that the toddlers were moved to the large room after nearby shelling blanketed another part of the facility with heavy dust last week.

"It is a catastrophic situation," Afkar Omar Moustafa, a volunteer at the orphanage, said in a phone interview. "This was something we expected from day one (of the fighting)."

Among the dead were babies as young as three months, according to death certificates as well as four orphanage officials and workers for charities now helping the facility.

The weekend was particularly deadly, with 14 children perishing Friday and 12 on Saturday.

This raised alarm and outrage across social media, and a local charity was able to deliver food, medicine and baby formula to the orphanage on Sunday, with the help of the UN children's agency, UNICEF, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Orphanage workers warned that more children could die, and called for their speedy evacuation out of war-torn Khartoum.

The battle for control of Sudan erupted April 15, pitting the Sudanese military, led by General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces commanded by General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.

The fighting has turned Khartoum and other urban areas into battlefields. Many houses and civilian infrastructure have been looted or were damaged by stray shells and bullets.

The fighting has inflicted a heavy toll on civilians, particularly children. 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.

More than 1.65 million people have fled to safer areas inside Sudan or crossed into neighbouring countries. Others remain trapped inside their homes, unable to escape as food and water supplies dwindle. The clashes have also disrupted the work of humanitarian groups.

More than 13.6 million children are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Sudan, up from nearly nine million prior to the war, according to UNICEF.

As of Monday, there were at least 341 children at the orphanage, including 165 infants between the ages of one and six months and 48 ranging from seven to 12 months, according to data obtained by the AP. The remaining 128 children were between the ages of one and 13 years.

Among those at the orphanage were two dozen children who had been sent back from Khartoum hospitals after the outbreak of fighting. The hospitals, where the children received advanced treatment, had to shut down because of lack of power or nearby shelling, said Heba Abdalla, who joined the orphanage as a child and is now a nurse there.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at


  1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper; email addresses will not be published.
  2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.
  3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.
  4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.
  5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:
  6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:
  7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

Which long-term investment option is more attractive to you at the moment?