The World Health Organization announced on Tuesday that there is a "high risk of biological hazard" in the capital of Sudan, Khartoum after one of the warring parties commandeered a laboratory containing measles and cholera pathogens and other hazardous materials.
The WHO's representative in Sudan, Nima Saeed Abid, told reporters in Geneva via video link that technicians could not obtain access to the National Public Health Laboratory to secure the materials.
"This is the primary concern: the inability of lab technicians to access the lab and safely contain the available biological materials and substances," he said, declining to identify which side had seized the facility.
The latest WHO figures indicate that fighting between the Sudanese armed forces and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitaries broke out on April 15, resulting in at least 459 deaths and 4,072 injuries. Abid stated that this was an underestimate, adding that he had observed two corpses in the street recently.
The clashes have paralyzed hospitals and other essential services, leaving many people isolated at home with dwindling food and water supplies. Since the beginning of the fighting, the WHO has reported 14 attacks on health facilities and is relocating its personnel to safer locations.
Abid stated that he was transported from Khartoum to Port Sudan on Monday as part of a large convoy that traversed the desert for 30 hours.
Due to intense fighting, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has been compelled to scale back some of its activities in parts of Sudan.
At least five aid workers have been slain since fighting broke out, and the International Organization for Migration and the World Food Programme have suspended operations.
"In areas where intense fighting has hampered our humanitarian operations, we have been forced to reduce our footprint," said OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke. However, we are committed to continuing to serve the Sudanese people.
Patrick Youssef, regional director for Africa at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), implored other nations to pressure Sudan to find a "permanent solution" even after foreigners had been evacuated.