Tempers Flare As Cameroon Gov’t Maintains Silence Over Baby Killed In Incubator

Days after a newborn was burnt to death in an incubator at a public hospital in Cameroon, the Ministry of Public Health and local authorities have maintained sealed lips, to the dismay of many. 

Protests are being planned by opposition parties against Cameroon’s health authorities following the death of a newborn baby in a fire at a hospital.

The baby was in an incubator that caught fire in a ward at the Nkongsamba Regional  Hospital in the Littoral region, on March 10th.

Civil society organizations and some politicians  have been raising their voices against this, accusing the Ministry of Public Health of negligence. 

The non-profit organization, Mandela Center International has issued a release, demanding the dismissal of the Nkongsamba Regional Hospital director, Fulbert Georges Mangala.

The baby has not been publicly named, although Mandela Centre gave the family name of the parents of the baby as Tedantsa.

There has also been anger at Cameroon’s electricity company. It is believed the fire which turned the incubator into a charred and melted lump, was caused by an electrical short circuit during a period of rapid fluctuations in the electricity supply to the hospital.

The cracking sound of electricity sparks could be heard coming from the ward shortly before the fire was discovered, sources close to the family say.

But the Mandela Centre said it was shocked at how the Ministry of Public Health has left the Electricity company, ENEO, to shoulder the blame when the hospital did not provide back-up electricity supply to the incubator ward. 

The hospital director has not issued a communiqué, days after the incident, the organisation said. 

“The Mandela Center International is able to affirm that this tragedy is a new proof of the negligence in the Cameroonian health system in that no incubator that respects international standards, with safety system segmented by power circuit and protected by fuses can catch fire in this way”, said Secretary General Jean Claude Fogno on Tuesday. 

“This falls short of Cameroon’s 2016-2027 health emergency plan, aligning the sustainable development goals”, he added.

Power Cuts

Provoked by the tragic death of the newborn, the leader  of Cameroon’s  main opposition party, Cabral Libii has announced his party will “storm the streets” of Yaoundé, the national capital, on Sunday March 19 to protest against frequent power outages.

T-shirts already printed by PCRN party to storm streets Photo: Libii

For over two months, Cameroonians have been going through incessant power cuts and fluctuations, that has affected house appliances and food stuck in households. Cabral Libii on a Facebook outing on Tuesday said the  situation has worsened and with the death of the newborn, more lives are at risk. 

“If we don’t rise up , if we don’t do anything, babies like the one who died as a result of power cuts in Nkongsamba, many will follow”, said the politician.

“It’s time for us to rise. We don’t pay bills to see our children struggle to read at night”, he protested. Though the Ministry of Water and Energy issued a letter to Mr Libii convening an explanatory meeting on Wednesday, the politician has not yet taken down the call for the protest.

One day after the incident, ENEO issued a communiqué sympathizing with the family who lost their baby in Nkongsamba. It apologised, stating an investigation team will look into what transpired.  

Earlier this year, the company announced it will resume  rationing electricity across the nation. On a communiqué signed in February it said the entire power system was constrained as there is grid saturation and a decrease in some power plants generation capacities. 

With this clarification from the company, activists  are calling for the dismissal and resignation of the Nkongsamba hospital staff, who should have explored other options to provide an unperturbed supply of electricity. 

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