TIVAOUANE: Eleven newborn babies have perished in a hospital fire blamed on an electrical short circuit in Senegal’s western city of Tivaouane, authorities said on Thursday.
In the latest in a series of hospital deaths that have exposed the weaknesses of the nation’s healthcare system, President Macky Sall announced the tragedy on Twitter before declaring three days of national mourning.
“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,” Sall wrote after the fire on Wednesday.
“To their mothers and their families, I express my deepest sympathy,” he tweeted.
“Where is Mohamed?,” asked one of the distraught mothers outside Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital in Tivaouane, a city that has a population of 40,000.
Her baby son was taken to the hospital 10 days ago and was baptised on Monday, Mohamed’s 54-year-old father Alioune Diouf said.
The city’s mayor Demba Diop said the fire had been caused by “a short circuit and spread very quickly”.
Local media quoted witnesses saying gas bottles exploded preventing any rescue attempts. Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr was quoted in media reports also blaming an electrical fault. The maternity unit was equipped to take care of 13 babies. “At the time of the fire, there were 11, whom nurses were unable to save,” the minister said.
Mayor Demba Diop said “three babies were saved”. World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted that he was “beyond heartbroken with this tragic news.
“I’m sending my deepest condolences to the parents and families of the babies who lost their lives.” Health Minister Sarr, who had been in Geneva attending a meeting with the WHO, said “an investigation is under way to see what happened”.
The tragedy in Tivaouane comes after several other public health incidents in Senegal, which suffers from a great disparity between urban and rural areas in healthcare services.
Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2022