Resting on a hospital bed after a session of chemotherapy, Sudanese banker Mohamed Hasan vividly recalls the day when doctors told him he had blood cancer. It is a shock in any country but in Sudan, where access to drugs and treatment is impaired by 20-year-old US sanctions, it can be more life-threatening. "It was the first week of my honeymoon when I fell sick and was admitted to hospital," Hasan, 30, told AFP as a nurse prepared him for a sponge bath. "I never imagined it would be cancer ... It was a real tragedy." For a year now, Hasan has been receiving treatment at the Radiation and Isotopes Centre Khartoum, the biggest state-run cancer hospital in Sudan. Life-saving drugs and medical equipment supplied to Sudan are theoretically exempt from Washington's complex set of trade embargoes. But restrictions on banking transactions, exchange of technology and spare parts, and other cumbersome trade regulations have hampered treatment of patients. The Khartoum cancer hospital is no exception.
Two of its four radiation therapy machines have been broken for months and repairing them has become a nightmare, general manager Khatir Al-Alla said. "Their spare parts have to be brought from America or Europe," Alla told AFP. "But because of diplomatic issues we are facing problems." Importing equipment or components directly from manufacturers is cumbersome given the restrictions on transferring funds overseas. Washington imposed sanctions on Khartoum in 1997 for its alleged support of Islamist militant groups. Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden lived in Khartoum between 1992 and 1996. Over the years, successive US administrations have tightened the sanctions, accusing Khartoum of human rights violations, particularly in the 14-year-old conflict with ethnic minority rebels in the western region of Darfur. "The waiting period is between three to four weeks... which is too long for cancer patients," Alla said. Frustrated with the long waiting period, Hasan now plans to seek further treatment in India. The situation is no different at the Khartoum Breast Care Centre (KBCC), the only specialised facility in Sudan to treat breast cancer. The clinic's mammography machine has been broken for weeks, said British-trained radiologist Dr Hania Fadl, the founder of the not-for-profit hospital. "The problem is with the service... We don't have proper agents to service the equipment," Fadl said.
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