Newly renovated Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital

Kabul, January 28, 2005 (ICRC) - Following extensive renovations, Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital in the Afghan capital, Kabul, was handed over to the Ministry of Public Health on 25 January 2005.

Technicians from the Norwegian Red Cross, working closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Ministry and senior hospital staff, had been carrying out repairs to the building since the summer of 2002, installing a new central heating system, (with financial support from the Kuwait Red Crescent Society) and fixing the roof, windows and doors. The water supply system has also been improved, the wiring completely replaced, the walls plastered and painted, and floors and walls tiled where needed. The hospital also received two generators, and the Danish Red Cross, working under the auspices of the ICRC, installed a waste management station, maintenance workshop and X-ray machines.

The ICRC's connection with Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital goes back many years. The 100-bed facility was, and still is, the main referral hospital for orthopaedic and emergency surgery in Afghanistan. In the 1990s, as fighting raged in and around Kabul, the ICRC provided the hospital with regular supplies of medicines, medical material, food and fuel - help it sorely needed. In 1994, for example, up to one third of the capital's thousands of war wounded were treated there or at Karte She Hospital in western Kabul, which the ICRC also supported. Between 1996 and 2004, Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital admitted 71,500 patients and performed 50,000 operations. Some 28,600 patients received blood transfusions.

Today, the spacious building with its new cream and pale lilac paintwork presents a gracious face to the outside. Inside, the wards and staff rooms are warm and cheerful. The rooms are bright, and the formidable treeless mountains around Kabul can be seen through the tall windows.

Now that the renovation is practically finished and the building handed over to the Ministry of Public Health, the ICRC will continue to provide medical and non-medical supplies, hygiene items, stationery and staff incentives for another three months.

In all, about 20 staff from the Norwegian and Danish Red Cross Societies and the ICRC have been associated with the project since the renovations began nearly three years ago. During the handover ceremony, the head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan, Philip Spoerri, paid tribute to the patience and dedication of all those involved in the programme, not least the hospital's own doctors and nurses, who risked their lives to assist the sick and injured during the terrible years of war and continue to serve their people today.