‘It is heartbreaking’: Families mourn 11 newborn babies who died after fire at Senegal hospital neonatal ward


Families have been left heartbroken after a fire in a Senegal hospital killed 11 newborn babies.

The country’s president Macky Sall said the blaze broke out in the neonatal ward in the town of Tivaouane, around 120km (75 miles) east of the capital Dakar.

Mr Sall wrote on Twitter: “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.

“To their mothers and their families, I express my deepest sympathy.”

One of the people affected was El Hadj Gueye, whose wife Ramata Gueye died three weeks ago after giving birth to a son, Mohamed, seven months into her pregnancy.

Now the bereaved husband has learnt that Mohamed was one of the babies killed in the fire.

His cousin, Moustapha Cisse, said the couple had been trying for a baby for seven years.

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He said: “It is heartbreaking to see him lose his wife and now his child. I can’t even look him in the eyes. If he had other children, maybe, but it was his only child.”

Diali Kaba, whose two-week-old daughter was in the neonatal ward, rushed to the hospital when she found out about the fire, but was seen breaking down outside when she learnt her baby girl was among the dead.

Senegal’s health minister, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, said on private Senegalese television TFM that “according to preliminary investigation, a short circuit triggered the fire”.

Kaba, a mother of a 10-day-old baby, reacts as she sits outside the hospital

Mr Sarr, who is in Geneva for the World Health Assembly, said he would cut short the trip and return to Senegal immediately.

Neonatal units will now be investigated across the nation

Demba Diop Sy, the mayor of Tivaouane, one of Senegal’s holy cities, said police and fire service were still at the hospital.

Interior minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Dione said Mr Sall had ordered an investigation into the fire as well as an audit of neonatal units nationwide.

Public health experts have previously 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.

A pregnant woman, who according to her mother has reached her term, is seen walking outside hospital after she was refused admission at the hospital
A pregnant woman, who according to her mother has reached her term, is seen walking outside hospital after she was refused admission at the hospital

Amadou Kanar Diop, a risk and security expert who inspected the unit, said the walls were charred and the staff on duty appeared to have been overwhelmed.

He said: “It can be seen that they used several canisters of fire extinguishers.”

Tivaouane is a busy road transport hub and holy city that attracts Muslim pilgrims from all over the west African country.


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