Although Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates, mothers and infants in north-west Kabul now have a far better chance of surviving childbirth following the inauguration of a modern hospital rebuilt and refurbished with support from the Government of Italy and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The Khair Khana Hospital, once filthy, overcrowded and woefully under-equipped, now has a clean delivery room and an up-to-date operating theatre where Caesarean sections can be performed. Its capacity has doubled, and the hospital can now handle some 30 to 40 deliveries per day. The facility serves a poor, densely populated area with a population of 1 million in the north-western section of the Afghan capital. Before the refurbishing, officially inaugurated yesterday with the participation of UNFPA Deputy Executive Director Kunio Waki and the deputy head of the Italian Embassy, Carlo Batori, women who experienced complications during childbirth could not be treated at Khair Khana. There were only two maternity hospitals equipped for life-saving surgery, some 15 kilometres away, and there was no ambulance until UNFPA provided one last year. Mr. Batori says the $2 million Italy provided for the reconstruction was “not a donation; it is an investment in human dignity.” Afghanistan’s maternal mortality rate, one of the world’s highest, is estimated at 1,700 deaths per 100,000 live births. The vast majority of Afghan women have no access to medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. Most of the medical facilities that are available are run down and in dire need of trained personnel.
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