President Macky Sall announces deaths of infants after blaze at hospital in Tivaouane
Eleven newborn babies have died in a hospital fire in Tivaouane, western Senegal, the country’s president has said.
Macky Sall tweeted on Wednesday night: “I have just learned with pain and dismay about the deaths of 11 newborn babies in the fire at the neonatal department of the public hospital. To their mothers and their families, I express my deepest sympathy.”
The incident occurred at Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh hospital and was caused by “a short circuit”, according to the Senegalese politician Diop Sy. “The fire spread very quickly.”
The city’s mayor, Demba Diop, said three babies were saved. According to local media, the hospital was officially opened recently.
The health minister, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, who was in Geneva attending a meeting with the World Health Organization, said he would return to Senegal immediately.
“This situation is very unfortunate and extremely painful,” he said on radio. “An investigation is under way to see what happened.”
The fire follows several incidents at public health facilities in Senegal, where there is great disparity between urban and rural areas in healthcare services.
In Linguère in April, a fire broke out at a hospital and four newborn babies were killed. The mayor of the northern town blamed an electrical malfunction in an air conditioning unit in the maternity ward.
The fire on Wednesday also comes weeks after three midwives were convicted over the death of a pregnant woman who waited in vain for a caesarean section.
The woman, named Astou Sokhna, had arrived at a hospital in the northern city of Louga in pain. The staff had refused to accommodate her request for a C-section, saying it had not been scheduled. She died on 1 April, 20 hours after she arrived.
Sokhna’s death caused public outrage over the dire state of Senegal’s health service, and the health minister acknowledged two weeks later that the death could have been avoided.
Three midwives who were on duty the night Sokhna died were sentenced on 11 May by the high court of Louga toa six-month suspended jail sentence for their “failure to assist a person in danger”.
Amnesty International’s Senegal director, Seydi Gassama, said his organisation had called for an inspection and upgrade of neonatology services nationwide after the “atrocious” death of the four babies in Linguère.
Amnesty “urges the government to set up an independent commission of inquiry to determine responsibility and punish the culprits, no matter the level they are at in the state apparatus”, he tweeted.
The opposition lawmaker Mamadou Lamine Diallo also responded with outrage over the Tivaouane fire.
“More babies burned in a public hospital … this is unacceptable @MackySall. We suffer with the families to whom we offer our condolences. Enough is enough,” he wrote.