'High Risk of Biological Hazard' In Sudan After Fighters Seize Biolab, WHO Says

Soldiers have seized a biolab containing samples of cholera and the measles in Khartoum.
Anadolu Agency / Contributor

The World Health Organization (WHO) said there’s a “high risk of biological hazard” in Khartoum, the capitol of Sudan, after a biolab containing deadly pathogens was seized by fighters. 

There’s a war in Sudan right now as two rival generals struggle for power. After a week of fighting, one of the factions has seized the National Public Health Laboratory which contains samples of measles, cholera, polio, and other diseases.


Now, lab workers are unable to return to the facility and secure the hazardous materials. "This is the main concern: no accessibility to the lab technicians to go to the lab and safely contain the biological material and substances available," Nima Saeed Abid, the WHO’s representative in Sudan, told reporters on Tuesday.

According to the lab’s website, it contains “reference laboratories related to the control of some diseases such as polio, measles, tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS.” The lab is engaged in various aspects of studying and controlling diseases, including identifying pathogens, testing for them, and sending samples to international labs. The work is aimed at preventing and identifying possible epidemics, and the lab works with the WHO. 

The fighting in Sudan has already killed 459 people and injured 4,072, and the release of a deadly pathogen would lead to more suffering. The fighting is between generals Abdel Fattah Burhan and Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo. Burhan is the head of the country’s military and Dagalo is the leader of a paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces. The RSF got its start as a Janjaweed militia, an Arab fighting group that operated in Darfur.

Tensions between Burhan and Dagalo have been running high for years. The two have led a council of generals that has ruled the country since taking power in a coup in 2021. The Russian mercenary group Wagner has been in the country since 2017 when it traded armored vehicles to the government for gold mining concessions. American officials have said Wagner, and Russia, is backing the RSF but the RSF has publicly denied this.

Abid spoke to journalists in Geneva via a videolink in Sudan. When asked, he declined to tell journalists if it was the RSF or the Sudanese military that had seized the National Public Health Laboratory.