11 Households in Senegal Welcomed Newborns. A Fireplace Left Them Devastated.


TIVAOUANE, Senegal — The infant boy didn’t but have a reputation.

He was solely a day previous on Wednesday when a fireplace broke out within the neonatal part of the hospital the place he was born, within the holy metropolis of Tivaouane in central Senegal. He was on the maternity ward’s third ground; his mom, nonetheless recovering from a caesarian, was on the primary and had not seen him since.

Eleven new child infants died within the hearth, devastating their households and stunning the West African nation, which has confronted a collection of lethal incidents in maternity wards lately.

Family of the new child boy had flocked to the hospital to rejoice his arrival. When the hearth began at about 9 p.m. on Wednesday, his aunt, Mame Anta Gueye, had been praying within the hospital compound.

“We have been right here,” Ms. Gueye mentioned on Thursday, sitting with family members close to the ward the place her nephew had died, and the place her sister was mourning. “And we couldn’t do something.”

The fireplace on the Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital of Tivaouane was attributable to a brief circuit, in keeping with the town’s mayor, Demba Diop. However on Thursday, there have been few particulars of how the hearth had unfold, and whether or not any adults — hospital employees or mother and father — had been within the room with the newborns.

Three infants have been saved, Mr. Diop mentioned on native radio.

Grieving households waited for information on Thursday afternoon underneath the shade of neem bushes exterior the hospital, determined for extra particulars about what had occurred, and why, and once they may retrieve the our bodies of their family members.

Contained in the grounds of the hospital, the troubled state of Senegal’s well being care system was on show, with discarded stretchers and damaged hospital beds strewn about, in addition to syringes, bedside displays and microscopes.

A streak of black soot marked the world the place the infants had been sleeping, rising from a top-floor window of the turquoise-and-white painted constructing to the place the roof met the near-cloudless sky.

El Hadj Gueye appeared up on the damaged home windows and the smoke-stained constructing. He had no phrases. His child son had died within the blaze.

This was the second tragedy to hit the household in lower than a month. On the similar hospital on Might 4, Mr. Gueye’s spouse, Ramatou Laye Gueye, had died giving start to the infant. Mr. Gueye had given the boy his mom’s identify as a center identify, in remembrance of her: Mohamed Ramatou Gueye.

Subsequent to Mr. Gueye stood Moura Diallo, his father-in-law. He lived within the capital, Dakar, however had come to Tivaouane to mourn his daughter. Now he was mourning a grandson as effectively.

Mr. Diallo blamed the well being care system’s lack of sufficient tools and coaching for nurses.

“There’s nothing we are able to do however undergo,” he mentioned.

A collection of lethal incidents that officers mentioned have been avoidable have raised critical questions from the Senegalese public concerning the state of the nation’s public well being system, which faces a major lack of well being care employees, monetary sources, infrastructure and tools, in keeping with a nationwide plan outlining growth priorities for the 2019-2028 interval.

Final month, Astou Sokhna, a pregnant girl in her 30s, died at a hospital within the northern city of Louga, after her requests for a caesarian have been ignored for hours. The unborn youngster died, too.

In April 2021, 4 newborns died in one other hospital hearth that officers attributed to a malfunction within the air-conditioning unit of a maternity ward.

On Thursday, the nation’s well being minister, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, was dismissed, simply hours after he visited the grieving households.

President Macky Sall has declared three days of nationwide mourning, and the occasions of the Dakar Biennale, West Africa’s greatest artwork occasion, have been paused.

“To their moms and their households, I specific my deepest sympathy,” Mr. Sall wrote on Twitter.

The president’s workplace mentioned Mr. Sall was slicing brief a visit overseas and would go to the victims’ households on Saturday in Tivaouane, the middle of the Tijanis, one of the influential Muslim Sufi sects in Senegal, and a metropolis that draws tons of of 1000’s of pilgrims yearly.

The Senegalese authorities mentioned six individuals had already been interrogated as a part of the investigation into the hearth.

However opposition politicians argued that investigating these accountable was not sufficient.

Gorgui Massamba Boye, a neighborhood consultant of the opposition get together Pastef, mentioned it was crucial to “anticipate potential tragedies.”

“The dearth of rigor and laxity value the lives of many harmless individuals,” he mentioned.

On social media, different politicians straight blamed the president.

“As soon as once more, infants have been burned alive in a public hospital,” Mamadou Lamine Diallo, an opposition lawmaker, posted on Twitter. “That’s unacceptable, Macky Sall.”

Regardless of all of the lives misplaced, no less than one child was born on Wednesday evening on the hospital.

Hours earlier than the hearth broke out, Aminata Diaw’s contractions had began. She was rushed to the hospital.

At 9 p.m., as her contractions intensified, the hearth began spreading on the third ground. She was evacuated from the maternity ward and brought to the street throughout from the hospital. As soon as the firefighters had extinguished the hearth, Ms. Diaw was one of many first to be rushed again in, and an hour later was giving start to a child lady.

On Thursday afternoon, Ms. Diaw’s sister-in-law, Kiné Diop, mentioned mom and daughter have been alive and effectively and would spend the evening collectively, however that Ms. Diaw was nonetheless struggling to course of what had occurred.

“She gave life whereas others have been shedding theirs in the identical constructing,” Ms. Diop mentioned.

Elian Peltier reported from Tivaouane, Senegal, and Ruth Maclean from Dakar.

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