Seven babies were stillborn at Harare Central Hospital in Zimbabwe on Monday night after urgent treatment was delayed because of staffing issues.
Nurses are on strike nationwide because of a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other concerns, and the maternity wards were overwhelmed.
One doctor said the deaths were “the tip of the iceberg” as the health sector has recently been hit by a Covid-19 procurement scandal. He said: “Our only radiotherapy machine broke during my treatment”
It is alleged that multi-million dollar contracts were awarded to buy supplies at inflated prices – and the health minister has been sacked over the allegations.
A leaked government response to senior doctors, who wrote to complain about conditions and to threaten strike action, acknowledged “challenges” in hospitals, an “increase in poor outcomes” and a serious shortage of medical supplies because of a lack of foreign currency, but urged medical staff “to reconsider your intention of withdrawing services”.
The deaths at Harare Hospital first were first published by Dr Peter Magombeyi, who tweeted, “We have been robbed of our future, including our unborn babies. Please stop the looting”.