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    WHO Warns of ‘Enormous Biological Threat’ as Sudan Fighters Take Over Lab


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    A national public laboratory in Sudan, which holds samples of diseases including polio and measles, has been occupied by fighters creating an “extremely, extremely dangerous” situation, warned the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday. The lab is under the control of one of the fighting parties as a military base. Nima Saeed Abid, the WHO’s representative in Sudan, did not say which of the fighting parties had taken over the laboratory. Abid said that there is a huge biological risk associated with the occupation of the central public health lab. He pointed out that the lab held so-called isolates, or samples, of a range of deadly diseases, including measles, polio, and cholera.

    The UN health agency also said it had confirmed 14 attacks on healthcare during the fighting, killing eight and injuring two. The Sudanese health ministry has put the number of deaths so far at 459, with a further 4,072 wounded. The UN refugee agency said thousands had already fled the violence and that it was bracing for up to 270,000 people to flee Sudan into neighbouring Chad and South Sudan. Some 20,000 refugees had arrived in Chad since the fighting began 10 days ago. The agency expected up to 100,000 refugees in Chad in the worst-case scenario.

    Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency, said the fighting had led to “acute shortages of food, water, medicines and fuel, and limited communications and electricity.” Some 15.8 million people in Sudan — a third of the population — already needed humanitarian aid before the latest violence erupted. But humanitarian operations have also been heavily affected by the fighting, Laerke warned, highlighting among other things reports of looting of humanitarian supplies and warehouses. Five humanitarian workers have been killed.

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