By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Senegal’s President Macky Sall fired the health minister on Thursday and announced three days of national mourning for the death of the newborns..
Eleven newborn babies died in a hospital fire blamed on an electrical short circuit in Senegal’s western city of Tivaouane, authorities said 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 and declared 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 late Wednesday.
“To their mothers and their families, I express my deepest sympathy,” he tweeted.
The city’s mayor Demba Diop said the fire had been caused by a short circuit and spread very quickly.
He denied allegations from relatives at the hospital and across social media that the babies had been left alone, saying a midwife and nurse were present Wednesday evening.
“There was a noise and an explosion, that lasted three minutes at most,” he said outside the hospital entrance.
“Five minutes after, the fire brigade arrived. People used fire extinguishers.”
The mayor said the air-conditioning had accelerated the flames and added that the two nurses fainted but were revived.
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.
World Health Organization 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.”
Amnesty International’s Senegal director Seydi Gassama said his organisation had called for an inspection and upgrade for neonatal services in hospitals across Senegal after the “atrocious” death of the four babies in Linguere.
With the new tragedy, 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”.