- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2005

Afghanistan’s minister of health has given approval for a new hospital in the capital, Kabul, to be managed by global aid group CURE International.

The group, which establishes and operates teaching hospitals in the developing world, is the only international humanitarian organization still working in Afghanistan.

Both Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross have left Afghanistan, citing safety concerns.

“We’re not more courageous than they are,” said Dr. Scott Harrison, founder and chief executive officer of the faith-based organization.

He said the difference is that CURE works with the U.S. military, while other international aid groups don’t, because they think it would compromise their neutrality.

“In theory … [the other aid groups] may be absolutely right, but a lot of children die and a lot of mothers don’t get care if you decide you’re going to leave because of this,” he said.

The 115-bed hospital, together with a nearby facility, will be operational by June. Organizers at CURE estimate that the compound will provide health services to more than 100,000 women and children a year.

In Afghanistan, there is one physician for every 50,000 people, and 25 percent of Afghan children die before age 5.

The hospital will occupy a medical facility that is now a shell.

The compound sits on 15 acres in southern Kabul and will consist of a main hospital with outpatient facilities and a secondary hospital for inpatient care.

There are about 50 staff members, and the number is expected to double once more local doctors are recruited and trained.

CURE has a strong presence in Kandahar, where a clinic has been operating since August.

The group, which also has clinics in Africa and Central America, receives much of its funding from other faith-based organizations and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Dr. Harrison said he is optimistic about Afghanistan’s future, calling it “the best-kept secret in America. You rarely see it in the news because things are going well.”

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