The announcement was made on the Senegalese President’s Twitter feed. President Macky Sall wrote Wednesday on the social media site, “I have just learned with pain and consternation of the death of 11 newborn babies in the fire that occurred in the neonatology department of the Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh hospital in Tivaouane.”
He added, “To their mothers and families I express my deepest sympathy.”
The fire is reported to have broken out in the neonatal unit of the neonatal section of the recently inaugurated Tivaouane regional hospital caused by a short circuit, according to some politicians.
Senegal’s Health Minister, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, who cut short his trip to Geneva to return home due to the horrid accident, said in a statement that an emergency response plan had been put in place and “arrangements are being made for the assistance of the families of the victims.”
The statement also indicated that President Sall has asked for an investigation into the cause of the hospital fire and asked for a review of all equipment and infrastructure dedicated to newborns who need machine assistance for their care.
For his part, the Senegalese Minister of Regional Planning and Local Government, Cheikh Bamba Dièye, described the fatal incident as “horrific and unacceptable” while urging a probe of the country’s health systems.
Wednesday’s tragedy in Senegal also follows a national outcry over the death of a woman in labour, Astou Sokhna, who died recently while reportedly begging for a Caesarean during her 20-hour labour ordeal. Her unborn child also died.
According to Amnesty International, four newborn babies were killed last year after another fire broke out at a hospital’s maternity ward. At the time, the mayor said there was an electrical fault in the air conditioning unit of the maternity ward. The Rights group has urged the government to create an “independent commission of inquiry to determine responsibility and punish the culprits, no matter the level they are at in the state apparatus.”
One opposition MP Mamadou Lamine Diallo has sounded off on the tragedy, criticizing the government in a tweet: “More babies burned in a public hospital… This is unacceptable.”
This latest incident has sparked a wave of anger on social media in Senegal over the state of the country’s healthcare provision.