Six Senegalese midwives charged over pregnant woman’s death

Six midwives in Senegal have been charged over a pregnant woman’s death in hospital this month, their lawyer said Wednesday, in an affair that sparked outrage in the West African nation.

Astou Sokhna died at nine months pregnant in a public hospital in early April in the northern town of Louga after she repeatedly pleaded with doctors to perform a caesarean section.

But the hospital refused her request on the grounds that the operation had not been planned in advance, and threatened to expel her if she insisted on the procedure, according to press reports.

Sokhna and her baby both died after a reported 20-hour wait, provoking an outpouring of anger on social media in Senegal. The president also promised to launch a probe.

Local press initially reported that she died on April 7, but Senegalese Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sall recently said that her death occurred on April 1.

On Wednesday, lawyer Abdou Daff told AFP that six midwives had been charged for failing to assist a person in danger.

Four were detained in Louga on Tuesday evening, he said, while the remaining two have been released provisionally. 

The healthcare workers union ASAS began a three-day strike Wednesday over the detention of the midwives, as well as pay conditions. 

In a statement, it accused the government of failing to await the results of the investigation and of throwing health workers “to the media lynch mob”.