x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Dh20m Kabul hospital funded by UAE still idle

A hospital in Afghanistan built by a UAE charity sits idle because the government there cannot afford its operating costs.

The 100-bed Zayed Mother and Child Hospital was given to the people of Kabul by the Zayed Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation. It has been fully equipped and ready to open since 2010. Courtesy Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan Charitable & Humanitarian Foundation
The 100-bed Zayed Mother and Child Hospital was given to the people of Kabul by the Zayed Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation. It has been fully equipped and ready to open since 2010. Courtesy Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan Charitable & Humanitarian Foundation

ABU DHABI // A Dh20 million children’s hospital in Kabul, built with humanitarian aid from the UAE, has lain unused for three years because the Afghan government cannot afford to run it.

The 100-bed Zayed Mother and Child Hospital was given to the people of Kabul by the Zayed Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation. It has been fully equipped and ready to open since 2010.

Afghanistan’s ministry of health says it needs Dh9.18m to run the hospital for the first year and further funding for 10 years.

Meanwhile, the UAE has been paying to maintain the hospital’s state-of-the-art equipment, purchased in 2010, and is providing the building with full security.

Fazlullah Reshteen, a counsellor at the Afghan embassy in the UAE, says officials there have been negotiating with UAE authorities since the start of the year in an effort to secure the money needed to open the hospital.

Ahmed Shabeeb Al Dhaheri, head of the Zayed Foundation, said the hospital was intended as a one-off gift. Their initial agreement was to build the hospital to the highest standards, furnish it and stock it with medical equipment.

“The UAE in Afghanistan has a united team to provide aid, headed by the UAE ambassador to Afghanistan,” said Mr Al Dhaheri.

“The hospital is under the team’s supervision. We hope when the government is ready to take it, they do.”

He said it was possible to hand over the hospital at any moment, but they could not force it on the government.

“We hope the Afghan government, or the ministry of health, is ready to receive the hospital so that we can, with them, benefit from this and provide medical services that will benefit society,” said Mr Al Dhaheri.

When the hospital was completed in May 2010, the Afghan government asked for a road to link it to the city’s main road, parking spaces, an electricity generator in case the main power was cut, lighting around the building and a garden.

Within months, the UAE complied, but the government was still unable to accept the building.

Several suggestions have been made to solve the problem. One, by the UAE ambassador in Afghanistan, was to outsource the hospital’s operation to an international organisation. Another was to invite foreign health services already in the country, such as the German field hospital, to operate it.

“But then it would become a German hospital, not the Zayed Hospital any more. That would be the first impression you get from the hospital,” said Mr Al Dhaheri. “It would be best if they receive it as it is. The first agreement was to only build it and then they take it.”

He said it was important that the hospital was run according to the highest standards to ensure the best services were being provided to the community and to maintain the hospital’s reputation.

“The matter is in the ministry of health’s hands now,” he said.

A similar problem occurred in Yemen in 2008. The Dh24m Zayed Mother and Child Hospital in Sanaa sat empty for two years before the government was able to accept it.

“They were late to take it,” said Mr Al Dhaheri. “With every delay, first society does not benefit, then the cost is on us continuously.”

osalem@thenational.ae