11 babies have died after a fire broke out in the maternity unit of a hospital in the Senegalese city of Tivaouane.
A further three babies were rescued from the flames.
“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,” Macky Sall, the President of Senegal, tweeted.
“To their mothers and their families, I express my deepest sympathy.”
Three days of national mourning have been announced.
Je viens d'apprendre avec douleur et consternation le décès de 11 nouveaux nés, dans l'incendie survenu au service de néonatalogie de l'hôpital Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh de Tivaouane.
A leurs mamans et et à leurs familles, j'exprime ma profonde compassion.
— Macky Sall (@Macky_Sall) May 25, 2022
The fire has been blamed on a “very short circuit” and has triggered a wave of anger across Senegal at the poor quality of the country’s hospitals.
Only a year ago in Linguère, four babies died after a fire broke out and the town’s mayor blamed it on an electrical malfunction.
One man, Moustapha Cissé, told Reuters that his sister-in-law had died in childbirth at the hospital in Tivaouane and his newborn nephew perished in the flames hours later.
"It is heart-breaking to see him lose his wife and now his child," said Mr Cissé of his brother.
"I can't even look him in the eyes.
"Is it God's plan or is it just that Senegal's hospitals are failing? We need to put this question to the government.”
“More babies burned in a public hospital,” opposition politician Mamadou Lamine Diallo tweeted.
“This is unacceptable @MackySall. We suffer with the families to whom we offer our condolences. Enough is enough.”
He also called for the Minister of Health to be sacked.
Encore des bébés brûlés dans un hôpital public, en plus qui porte le nom de Mame Abdou.
C’est inacceptable @Macky_Sall!
Nous souffrons avec les familles à qui nous présentons nos condoléances. Trop, c’est trop.
Votre ministre Diouf Sarr doit partir!
— Mamadou Lamine Diallo (@mld2019) May 25, 2022
Amnesty International has called for all the country’s maternity wards to undergo thorough safety inspections and urged 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”.
Main image: The flag of Senegal. Picture by: Alamy.com