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Afghanistan: ICRC steps up support for health-care services

Geneva / Kabul, July 26, 2007 (ICRC): The Afghan government and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have reached an agreement under which the ICRC will significantly increase its support for Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar, one of the most important medical facilities in the conflict-ridden southern part of the country. The 390-bed regional referral hospital provides essential care for thousands of patients, including men, women and children wounded in hostilities in the neighbouring provinces of Zabul, Helmand and Uruzgan. The memorandum of understanding signed by the Ministry of Public Health and the ICRC covers the next two years.

"Because of mounting security problems and the remoteness of many areas, there are a lot of people in Afghanistan who don't have access to quality medical care," said Reto Stocker, head of the ICRC delegation in Kabul. "Especially in the south, the intensification of the armed conflict over the past year and a half has resulted in an increase in the number of war-wounded patients. By strengthening its support for Mirwais Hospital, the ICRC aims to help meet some of the most urgent medical needs in the area."

Under the new agreement, the ICRC will support the Ministry of Public Health in implementing its "Essential Package of Hospital Services," a national policy for provincial and regional hospitals designed to improve the overall quality of health care and the performance of hospital staff.

The ICRC will not only help the hospital's surgery unit respond to emergencies such as sudden influxes of war-wounded and trauma patients, but also extend its support to the entire hospital to better cater to the needs of ordinary patients and improve general health-care services. Since 1996, the ICRC has been providing the hospital with essential drugs, laboratory and X-ray supplies, and other surgical and medical items, in addition to training personnel. The organization has also contributed to the maintenance of the hospital's premises and equipment and supplied generator fuel.

Last year, the ICRC aided 14 medical facilities across Afghanistan which treated nearly 35,000 patients, of whom more than 1,700 had suffered wounds inflicted by weapons – including 240 men, 252 women and 322 children injured by mines or other explosive remnants of war. In addition to its support for Mirwais Hospital, the ICRC has been providing supplies and capacity-building assistance and training staff for hospitals in Jalalabad and Sheberghan.