Trapped by Sudan fighting, dozens of infants, toddlers and children died in Khartoum orphanage

This video image from May shows toddlers in the Foster Home for Orphans in Khartoum, Sudan. (AP Photo/Heba Abdalla)

CAIRO — 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.

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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 U.N. 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 Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

The fighting has turned Khartoum and other urban areas into battlefields.

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