Bamyan, Afghanistan, 24 April 2017 — Princess Zahra and Vice President Sarwar Danesh opened a 141-bed hospital facility today. Emphasising the health of mothers and children, the facility expands Bamyan Provincial Hospital’s capacity to deliver much needed services in obstetrics and gynecology, paediatrics and surgery.

Today, Princess Zahra and the Second Vice President of Afghanistan, Sarwar Danesh, opened a 141-bed facility for the Bamyan Provincial Hospital. With a major focus on the health of mothers and children, the facility expands the hospital’s capacity to deliver much needed services in obstetrics and gynecology, paediatrics and surgery.

“It is my deep hope that this new hospital with its expanded facilities will be a role model for health facilities in Afghanistan and will provide essential healthcare to the people of Bamyan and the neighbouring provinces,” said Vice President Danesh during the inauguration ceremony.

The facility’s opening is the latest milestone in a journey that began in 2003, when the Aga Khan Health Services assumed responsibility for operating the hospital.

“At that time health service delivery at Bamyan Hospital was provided from a 35 bed facility with 72 staff working mainly out of tents,” said Princess Zahra in her remarks at ceremony. “Major changes have occurred since then; at the old premises the hospital was upgraded and expanded, more and better qualified staff were brought in, training programmes commenced, new equipment was installed and the hospital became well-stocked with medicines and consumables.”

The impact on the people of Bamyan was enormous. Over the space of a decade, admissions grew nearly sixfold: from 1,900 in 2004 to 11,000 in 2016. The number of deliveries exploded from 100 to more than 3,000. Waiting times dropped, permitting patients to see doctors faster, and overall clinical quality improved.

“In 2012 the Bamyan Provincial Hospital received ISO-9001:2008 certification,” said Princess Zahra, “the first — and with Faizabad Hospital in Badakhshan the only Provincial Hospitals in Afghanistan — with this quality accreditation.”

But despite massive improvements over the years, some 10 per cent of the country’s children still die before the age of five. Afghan women have a 1 in 52 chance of dying due to pregnancy or childbirth. These are statistics that the Aga Khan Development Network and its partners are actively working to change.

Bamyan Hospital is part of an ISO-certified health system of four hospitals, 12 health centres and more than 125 clinics and health posts, all serviced and supported by AKDN and its partners. Many of the doctors, nurses, midwives, and other health professionals who staff these facilities are also trained by AKDN.

Over 1.6 million patients are cared for through the medical network. Furthermore, through telemedicine, they gain access to expertise from the French Medical Institue for Mothers and Children in Kabul and the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi. To date, over 20,000 Afghan patients have benefited from this e-health link.

Development of the new hospital complex was led by the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat. It is designed to be earthquake resistant and makes use of innovative “rammed earth” construction to blend with its surroundings. It is also highly energy-efficient, with solar panels supplying more than 50 per cent of its power.

Acknowledging the planners, architects, contractors and others involved in the project, Princess Zahra also thanked the governments of Canada and France for their financial support towards the USD $22.8 million cost. Global Affairs Canada funded approximately three quarters of the total, with the balance coming from the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and the Agence Française de Développement.

“I would also like to acknowledge the thousands of Canadians who contributed to Aga Khan Foundation Canada’s fundraising efforts for the construction of the hospital,” said Princess Zahra.

She expressed “warmest gratitude” to the Afghan government, saying that AKDN “remains dedicated to working with the Government of Afghanistan and through it, to building the quality of life of its great people.”