Eleven newborn babies die in Senegal hospital fire

The fire at Abdoul Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital was in the maternity department. Credit: Johanna Geron, Pool Photo via AP/Thies24

Eleven newborn babies have died in a hospital fire in Senegal, the country’s president has said.

The fire, at Abdoul Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital in Tivaouane, northeast of the capital Dakar, was in its maternity department, President Macky Sall tweeted, as he expressed his "deepest sympathy" to the newborn's mothers and families.

Three babies were saved from the fire, which a preliminary investigation suggests was caused by “a short circuit”, according to Senegal's health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr.

Mr Sarr, who was attending the World Health Assembly in Geneva at the time of the incident, cut short his trip to return to Senegal.

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A series of deaths have raised concerns about maternal and infant health in the West African nation, where there is a great disparity between urban and rural areas in healthcare services.

Four newborn babies died in a hospital fire in Linguere, northern Senegal, last year.

The mayor of that town blamed an electrical malfunction in an air conditioning unit in the maternity ward.

Wednesday's tragedy also follows a national outcry over the death of a woman in labour, Astou Sokhna, who died while waiting in vain for a cesarean section in Louga, in the north of the country.

Three midwives were subsequently given six-month suspended sentences for not giving help to a person in danger.