Death any moment: Plight of Egyptian truckers stranded on border with Sudan persists amid 'official indifference'
The plight of Egyptian truck drivers stranded on the country's border with Sudan has persisted for almost three months, a crisis reportedly marred by Egypt's "official indifference" and the bureaucracy of the Sudanese side, resulting in the death of at least 15 truckers.
Almost 4,000 Egyptian drivers carrying basic commodities to deliver to merchants in war-torn Sudan have been lining up as long as 40 kilometres ahead of Qustal and Arqeen border crossings, awaiting their turn to cross into the Sudanese lands in the harshest heat wave not witnessed in decades and the absence of basic needs of healthcare, food and water.
"We anticipate death any moment," one trucker named Sayed told The New Arab as he parked his car in a long queue, hoping for salvation.
"I took off from the northern Sadat city in Menoufiya province, driving for about three days to reach the borders with Sudan. But I have been stranded here for over 40 days where hundreds of other colleagues are ahead of me waiting for the Sudanese authorities to finish paperwork and inspection procedures to deliver their cargo and return home finally," Sayed explained.
"We spend from one to three months on the road amidst extremely difficult conditions, between two mountains, where the temperature can be on some days up to 50°C with no shelter but our cars which about explode due to the extreme heat," he added.
While fridges inside trucks can hardly operate for one week, drivers cannot find their needs of proper nutrition, medical supplies and water during such long periods.
In many cases, they must travel 150 kilometres to Abu Simbel city, southwest of Aswan, to buy the supplies that can sustain them for a few days.
Other challenges face drivers on medication requiring low temperature, such as insulin, while some suffer snake and scorpion bites, finding no medical emergency services to save their lives.
A driver named Hussein told TNA that he was carrying a large amount of flour worth about 50,000 Egyptian pounds (around $US 1,620), but by the time he was allowed to enter the Sudanese land, the merchandise he was carrying had already been damaged.
"The Sudanese tradesman refused to receive the cargo even though the delay was not my fault," he sadly said, sighing, adding that he remained stuck on the road without work for two months to cross into Sudan, hoping to generate revenue but in vain.
The bodies of many drivers who lost their lives, primarily due to sunstroke, extreme dehydration or untreated medical conditions, could not be transported to be buried in their hometowns.
"Instead, we dug holes in the desert and buried our late fellows inside after the bodies decomposed due to the hot weather," a trucker named Mahmoud told TNA.
"Many of us are quite frustrated and depressed due to the atmosphere [and] have been surviving for long weeks now with no solution on the horizon," he gloomily added.
Last week, the Egyptian Ministry of Transport admitted the presence of a crisis, pinning it on the Sudanese authorities.
In a statement quoted by local news outlets, the ministry said that the Sudanese authorities' slow customs clearance procedures resulted in congestion at the border crossings, pledging to provide medical services, food and water supplies to the stranded truckers.
While the drivers on the scene confirmed the Egyptian official narrative to TNA, the Sudanese border authorities could not comment at the time of publishing.
"But we haven't sensed any intervention from the Egyptian government's side to solve the escalating situation on the border crossings or the expected humanitarian crisis that could occur," one stranded driver argued.
"The aid and supplies sent by the government so far are not enough. Unless decisive action is taken to resolve the situation, our lives remain at stake," he concluded.