Senegal’s President Macky Sall said on Wednesday that 11 newborn babies died in a fire at a regional hospital in Tivaouane, about 120 kilometers (74.56 miles) east of Dakar.
“I have just learned with pain and consternation 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,” Sall said in a tweet without giving further details about the fire.
“To their mothers and their families, I express my deepest sympathy,” Sall, who is on a state visit in Angola, added.
Senegal’s health minister, Sarr, said on private Senegalese television TFM that “according to preliminary investigation, a short circuit triggered the fire”.
Sarr, who is in Geneva for the World Health Assembly, said he would cut short the trip and return to Senegal immediately.
Demba Diop Sy, the mayor of Tivaouane, one of Senegal’s holy cities and a transport hub, said police and fire service were still at the hospital, but did not provide further details.
Public health experts have repeatedly warned that many underfunded, understaffed African hospitals had been stretched beyond their capacities by the COVID pandemic, leaving them unable to maintain acceptable safety standards.
The tragedy in Tivaouane comes after several other incidents at Senegalese hospitals that angered the nation.
In April, AEM had reported a woman died in labour along with her unborn baby after hospital staff refused to perform a caesarean section.
Last year, four newborn babies were killed by a fire at a hospital in the northern town of Linguere, causing a national outcry.