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

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

He was solely a day outdated on Wednesday when a hearth broke out within the neonatal part of the hospital the place he was born, within the holy metropolis of Tivaouane in central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 flooring; his mom, nonetheless recovering from a caesarian, was on the primary and had not seen him since.

Eleven new child infants died within the fireplace, devastating their households and surprising the West African nation, which has confronted a collection of lethal incidents in maternity wards in recent times.

Kinfolk of the new child boy had flocked to the hospital to have a good time his arrival. When the fireplace began at about 9 p.m. on Wednesday, his aunt, Mame Anta Gueye, had been praying within the hospital compound.

“We had been right here,” Ms. Gueye mentioned on Thursday, sitting with kin 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 brought on by a brief circuit, in line with the town’s mayor, Demba Diop. However on Thursday, there have been few particulars of how the fireplace had unfold, and whether or not any adults — hospital staff or mother and father — had been within the room with the newborns.

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

Grieving households waited for information on Thursday afternoon beneath the shade of neem timber outdoors the hospital, determined for extra particulars about what had occurred, and why, and once they might 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 screens 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 seemed 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 identical hospital on Could 4, Mr. Gueye’s spouse, Ramatou Laye Gueye, had died giving beginning 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 nicely.

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

“There’s nothing we will do however endure,” he mentioned.

A collection of lethal incidents that officers mentioned had been avoidable have raised critical questions from the Senegalese public in regards to the state of the nation’s public well being system, which faces a major lack of well being care staff, monetary sources, infrastructure and tools, in line with a national 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 had been ignored for hours. The unborn youngster died, too.

In April 2021, 4 newborns died in one other hospital fireplace 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, had 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 chopping brief a visit overseas and would visit the victims’ households on Saturday in Tivaouane, the middle of the Tijanis, probably the most influential Muslim Sufi sects in Senegal, and a metropolis that pulls lots 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 fireplace.

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

Gorgui Massamba Boye, an area consultant of the opposition occasion Pastef, mentioned it was important to “anticipate potential tragedies.”

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

On social media, different politicians instantly blamed the president.

“As soon as once more, infants had 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, at the least one child was born on Wednesday night time on the hospital.

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

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

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

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

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

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