Senegalese President Macky Sall expressed his grief over the death of 11 newborn babies in a fire at the Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh hospital in Tivaouane city in the Thies region, around 120 km north-east of Senegal’s capital, Dakar. President Sall decreed three-day national mourning.

The maternity unit was equipped to take care of 13 babies. The mayor said three babies were saved. The grieving families are waiting for the end of the investigation to go through their mourning process.

In a statement, the health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr said the tragedy was caused by “a short circuit”.

Senegal’s health minister, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, was in Geneva to attend the World Health Assembly when the accident happened. He announced that he is immediately ending his trip in Geneva to return to Dakar. He also added that he had sent a delegation to investigate the incident.

Senegal’s Minister of Territorial Planning and Local Government, Cheikh Bamba Dièye, called the fatal incident “horrible and unacceptable” while calling for an investigation into the country’s health systems.

“I am appalled by the horrific and unacceptable deaths of 11 newborn babies in Tivaoune. The recurrence of tragedies in our hospitals reminds us of the obligation to thoroughly review the quality of service in our hospitals. My deepest condolences to the families,” he said.

Following the death of 4 babies in a fire at a public hospital last year,  organisations called for an inspection and upgrade of neonatology services in hospitals across Senegal.