Press Releases

    POP/814
    5 March 2002

    UN POPULATION FUND AIRLIFTS EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES FOR AFGHAN MATERNAL HOSPITALS AND WOMEN’S MINISTRY

    (Reissued as received.)

    KABUL, 4 March (UNPFA) -- The first two of four cargo jets carrying equipment and supplies for three maternity hospitals and two schools for women and girls arrived here on Saturday. Another flight is due to arrive tomorrow; the fourth shipment will come in two weeks.

    The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is shipping the cargo as part of its ongoing support to the Interim Administration, aimed at saving lives and improving the reproductive health of Afghan women.

    The airlift from Copenhagen follows a UNFPA assessment of conditions at the Rabia Balkhi Women’s Hospital, the Malalai Maternity Hospital and the Khair Khana 52-Beds Hospital, undertaken at the request of the Ministry of Public Health. The Fund is providing $500,000 worth of lifesaving equipment and medical supplies urgently needed at these three facilities -- including operating tables, autoclaves, incubators and anaesthesia machines -- and two ambulances.

    UNFPA is also rebuilding a vocational school for women and a girls’ school on the grounds of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs. The Fund is also supporting the reconstruction of an office building for Dr. Sima Samar, Minister for Women’s Affairs, and providing office equipment and furniture. The schools and the new office are due to open on 22 March.

    The Population Fund is participating in Afghanistan’s reconstruction as part of the integrated UN assistance mission. Priorities identified together with the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs are strengthening maternal health services and girls’ education, with an initial focus on rebuilding health and education infrastructure.

    During the Taliban regime, UNFPA continued to work in Afghanistan and with Afghan refugees, providing basic training of health care providers and emergency reproductive health kits with emphasis on safe delivery. The Fund’s principal partners were international and Afghan nongovernmental organizations, including the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Ibn Sina -- and BBC radio, which incorporated safe motherhood messages into radio soap operas.

    In the past few months, a number of international donors -- including Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Italy, the United States and Norway -- have made significant contributions that will enable UNFPA to increase its involvement in Afghanistan. Nearly $11 million has been raised. The Fund estimates that additional funds will be needed to address short- and medium-term needs in reproductive health.

    An information team from UNFPA visited Kabul last month and has produced a short video documentary and several news reports detailing the Fund’s assistance efforts there. The reports, including an interview with Dr. Samar on her priorities for Afghan women, may be found at the UNFPA web site: www.unfpa.org.

    UNFPA is the world’s largest multilateral provider of population assistance to developing countries. A primary aim of its support to Afghanistan and Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries is to increase women’s access to reproductive health care and reduce the alarmingly high rate of maternal mortality, 1,700 deaths per 100,000 births.

    For more information, contact Dr. Kastydis Kaleda, UNFPA Office, Kabul (next to Italian Embassy); or in New York, William A. Ryan, ryanw@unfpa.org, Tel. +1-212-297-5279, Fax: +1-212-557-6416.

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