Twelve newborns have died at a health center in northeastern Afghanistan amid an outbreak of "an unknown and as yet not determined origin," the Italian nongovernment organization running the facility says.
The Emergency NGO said on November 5 that the babies all died the previous day at its maternity hospital in Panjshir Province's Anabah district.
A statement said the newborns, who were in critical condition and on antibiotic therapy, passed away at the hospital's neonatal intensive-care unit due to apparent sepsis -- a serious complication of an infection.
Emergency said it immediately informed the Afghan health authorities regarding the ongoing outbreak and tasked a private laboratory in the capital, Kabul, to carry out microbiological tests.
The group said it will communicate the results of the tests as soon as they are available.
Dejan Panic, Emergency's program coordinator for Afghanistan, told the dpa news agency that the 12 babies all experienced the same symptoms.
Two other newborns were in critical condition, Panic also said, adding that the neonatal ward was "on lockdown."
Meanwhile, Emergency said its staff had applied measures to contain the outbreak and treat the affected patients, insisting that it excluded "any medical negligence in what has happened."
The medical coordinator of the maternity center was in constant contact with the provincial and district officials, it also said.
The center offers gynecological, obstetric, and neonatal assistance to the population of the Panjshir Valley, and the provinces of Parwan, Kapisa, and Kabul, according to Emergency.
It has provided treatment and health care to more than 300,000 mothers and newborns since it was opened in 2003, the NGO added.
With reporting by dpa