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Sudanese Doctors Strike for Better Conditions; Threaten to Resign

February 26, 1989

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) _ Nearly all of Sudan’s doctors stopped working Sunday and said they will resign in a week unless the government improves conditions to end shortages of basic medical supplies.

″Many people have died due to the lack of soluble insulin in the hospitals. Blankets are torn up and used instead of medical cotton. How can we work in such conditions?″ said Abdul-Rahman Abul-Kul, chief of the Physicians’ Association of Sudan.

He led 1,000 of the striking physicians on a march through Khartoum, the capital, to present resignations of 2,761 doctors at the Ministry of Health. He said they represent 98.3 of the nation’s doctors.

The strike comes as Prime Minister Sadek Mahdi’s government tries to meet ultimatums of rebellious military officers and the capital is inundated with refugees from the southern civil war. Many refugees are starving and others need medical attention.

The physicians said they are protesting shortages of medical supplies such as disposable syringes, antibiotics and life-saving medication like the insulin needed to treat high blood sugar levels.

″We will not withdraw the resignation until we make sure that the implementation of our demands has started,″ Abul-Kul told reporters.

He said limited voluntary work would continue and that private clinics would be open two hours a day.

Abul-Kul said this East African country needs to spend at least $24 million to upgrade health conditions. ″This is only for the next six months, not in the long run,″ he added.

″No one can deny the deterioration of the medical services,″ said Dr. Abdul Hamid al-Sayed Osman, an undersecretary of health and a physician. He said he too would resign if there were no improvements.

Osman said the government has allocated $25 million for medication, but he could not explain why there were terrible shortages.

Refugees fleeing the civil war in the south to government-controlled towns apparently have aggravated the need for medical supplies and hospital care, though Abul-Kul said his association has been demanding improvements in health care since August 1987.

The rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army took up arms in 1983 against the Moslem-dominated government to fight for economic and social reforms in the mainly Christian and animist south.

On Friday, Mahdi bowed to army demands and promised to seek peace with the rebels, address domestic problems and change his Cabinet and foreign policy.

About 150 army officers led by military commander Gen. Fathi Ahmed Ali put the ultimatum to Mahdi. The officers insist there is no threat of a military takeover.

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