Afghan president opens work on $15 million hospital

Kabul, November 2, 2006 (AFP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has attended a ceremony to mark the start of the rebuilding of a 15-million-dollar Chinese-funded hospital to replace one that collapsed under construction in 2004, killing around 10 labourers.

Karzai said the new hospital represented progress in Afghans' hopes of having good medical services inside the country instead of having to go to neighbouring nations for treatment for basic illnesses.

The new 10-storey Jamhuriat Hospital will have around 350 beds.

The walls and roof of the old hospital collapsed while under reconstruction by a Chinese firm in 2004. Around 10 labourers were killed and 18 wounded.

Once built, the hospital will be equipped with modern medical instruments at a cost of more than five million dollars, Health Minister Mohammad Amin Fatimi said at the ceremony.

Afghanistan's health system is in tatters after nearly 30 years of war but international donors are helping to reconstruct the sector.