The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that a lab containing dangerous illnesses has been seized amid the ongoing conflict in Sudan.
Officials report that the National Public Health Laboratory in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum has been seized and occupied by unknown militants.
The lab, which is right beside the city’s international airport, reportedly contains several deadly pathogens, including the measles virus, and the bacterial infection cholera, and other unspecified “hazardous materials.” It is also reportedly located next to a residential area, and in close proximities to critical infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.
Sudan’s Federal Ministry of Health has reported that over half of the city’s health facilities are either not operational or unresponsive amid the ongoing fighting.
The development comes as the city is caught in a struggle between the Sudanese army, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group.
The WHO has reportedly said that workers have lost access to the lab, and that power cuts to the area meant that the materials inside had become impossible to manage.
Measles, which is highly contagious, is an airborne virus that kills over 134,000 people every year on average. Children are particularly vulnerable to the illness, and in rare cases it can cause encephalitis, or brain swelling. This can lead to convulsions, and may leave children deaf or with intellectual disabilities.
Meanwhile, cholera is a bacterial illness which causes diarrhoea and can kill within hours if left untreated. It is responsible for as many as 143,000 deaths worldwide every year.