‘Covid 19 has exposed injustice globally’


Oxygen cylinders donated following the fundraising campaign by SDU UK

Systematic failures in the NHS are risking the lives of Sudanese health workers in the UK, Dr Sara Abdelgalil explains. Meanwhile they also continue to mobilise in solidarity with the ongoing revolution and the battle against Covid 19 in Sudan.

This is an article from the current issue of Middle East Solidarity magazine – help us continue our work by donating £2 for a digital copy online

Sudanese doctors and health professionals have been active members of the NHS for ages. There has always been a movement from Sudan, from health professionals to come to the UK for training and they have been active in delivering services in the NHS at different levels, from senior clinicians, to pharmacists, paramedics, nurses in different areas. They have been on the frontline working with other colleagues in fighting Covid 19.


Dr Amged El-Hawrani, one of five Sudanese health workers to die of Covid 19 – portrait by Nick Prolix

The Sudanese Doctors’ Union – UK carried out a survey which rang alarm bells as it exposed that a significant number did not have an appropriate risk assessment before being deployed to work at the frontline. It seems they were unable to raise their concerns about the risk assessment not being done, or about the suitability of their workplace, indicating that there is a systematic failure within the NHS to allow people to raise their voices.

The links between Sudanese health professionals and Britain go back to colonial times, with the establishment of the Gordon Medical School.

The system is the British system, the links are with the British academic institutes. Doctors used to come from Sudan from the University of Khartoum Medical College for training in the UK and then they would go back.

There are also thousands of Sudanese doctors who are not coming to the UK, instead going eto the United States, Canada or Australia, or the Gulf. That is a for a range of reasons, including difficulties in obtaining visas.

Another issue is the question of the ‘Brain Drain’. Professionals from Africa, from Sudan are leaving their continent and going to work in Europe or in North America, Australia or the Gulf, because of political, economic and social injustice. What is the moral commitment from these countries when they are draining brains from Africa?

I think the main thing in 2020 is what has been happening in the USA with regards to Black American lives.We have to be careful about addressing the issue of racism and that we tackle the root causes of it appropriately with action and not just with words.

Covid 19 has exposed the significant injustice not only in the health service, but globally, with regards to health, to medication, to getting PPE, to getting tests, to approving a vaccine.

The situation in Sudan is very challenging, as we are coming out of 30 years of systematic failure and corruption and lack of commitment and a fragile health service. We were then confronted by cholera, dengue and Rift Valley fever outbreaks, and now Covid 19.


Dr Adil El Tayyar one of five Sudanese health workers to die of Covid 19 – portrait by Nick Prolix

The Ministry of Health and the government have been working hard with support internally and externally from the Sudanese diaspora to try to combat the Covid 19 pandemic, through training, through donations, by obtaining PPE, by supporting oxygenation, by increasing public awareness, so it brought people together. SDU-UK launched a project which has raised funding to supply hundreds of oxygen cylinders to El-Fashir hospital in Northern Darfur state. The hospital serves a population of 3 million, including 64,000 internally displaced people.

The revolution brought people together and united them, and Covid 19 did the same.

There have been challenges due to the international sanctions on Sudan imposed during the previous regime. These affect us getting funding, buying PPE, and this, along with other factors, caused shortages in PPE, and this has meant that in some areas health professionals were unable to work because of the huge risk to their lives.

We are very disappointed and frustrated that Sudanese people inside and outside Sudan peacefully stood up against a terrorist regime, but still we cannot lift the ban and get our rights, even to transfer money or to be able to get the basic equipment to fight such a deadly virus.

Dr Sara Abdelgalil is an NHS consultant and a member of the Sudanese Doctors Union – UK. Find out more on the SDU website www.sdu.org.uk



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