OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Angry protesters torched a maternity ward in Burkina Faso after a woman died in labor while nurses watched TV, prompting a rare promise that the government of the West African nation would take action, officials said Friday.
The woman, who was expecting twins, died on Wednesday at a clinic in the remote town of Bobo-Dioulasso after an agonizing labor, her husband Adama Traore said. It was the latest in a series of deaths of women in Burkina's maternity wards.
Traore, who spoke to The Associated Press by telephone on Friday, said he had brought his wife to the maternity ward 24 hours earlier.
The nurses left her alone in the birthing room, doubled over in pain, to go watch a TV show, he said.
"I begged them to take care of her," Traore said. "But they told me to go home."
Bowing to West African tradition, which excludes men from the birth of their children, he left the hospital. He received a frantic call the next day from a female relative that had stayed behind with his wife and rushed to the ward. The death of the woman, as well as of the twins she was bearing, prompted angry protesters to set fire to the maternity ward.
Another woman interviewed by national radio on Friday said she lost her seven-month-old infant in the same maternity ward. Last July, another pregnant mother was electrocuted at a maternity ward in a suburb of the capital, Ouagadougou, sparking violence.
Despite government subsidies to reduce maternal mortality, the death rate remains one of the highest in the world at 307 per 100,000 births, or 2,000 deaths every year, according to official statistics.
On Friday, a delegation of lawmakers led by Internal Affairs Minister Jerome Bougouma paid a visit to Traore's family. "Because the negligence resulted in death, there will be sanctions," Dr. Souleymane Sanou, the secretary-general of the Ministry of Health, told the AP by telephone.
Traore said he knew before he parked his motorcycle on Wednesday that he should never have left the hospital.
"When I got there, I barely parked my motorbike and I read on their faces that something tragic had happened," he said. "I found my wife lying down, dead on the floor."
The nurses had not bothered to pick her up from where she'd fallen. In her final moments, she had been writhing with pain and slipped off the hospital bed, he said.