Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am delighted and touched that Madame Chirac has joined us today for the inauguration of the French Medical Institute for Children in the presence of His Excellency President Hamid Karzai. Despite a very heavy schedule, President Karzai has chosen to be with us today, which underlines his personal unwavering commitment and that of his Government to the reconstruction of this proud land of the great Afghan people. The partnership of the Government of Afghanistan will remain essential for the future of this Institute.
The presence of the First Lady of France is far from being simply symbolic because Mme Chirac is actively involved in the medical and social field, in particular as President, since 1994, of the Foundation of Paris Hospitals and French Hospitals. All of us here appreciate her engagement and her strong support of this medical initiative in Kabul. Moreover, the new Institute we are inaugurating today represents French medicine in Afghanistan, medicine which is of worldwide renown. In the future, this Institute will permanently represent the engagement of French medicine in the national medical services of Afghanistan.
We are here today thanks to the generosity of large French enterprises, and of French men and women who have understood the critical situation of medical care in Afghanistan after 25 years of war, and who wish to urgently try to re-establish medical institutions capable of serving the population who no longer have access to satisfactory medical treatment.
I also welcome the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Philippe Douste-Blazy who, while leading French international affairs, is himself a medical doctor, ex-Head of Department at the Regional Hospital of Toulouse, and therefore extremely well qualified in the medical field.
I acknowledge the presence of Dr. Abdullah, the Afghan Minster of Foreign Affairs whose Ministry has been instrumental in negotiating the agreement for this partnership.
Indeed, I should especially emphasise the significance of this Institute in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. This Institute was created through a Public-Private Partnership to establish a new medical institute through a strategic collaboration: The support of the French Government, that of the Afghan Government, the participation of the French Non-Governmental Organisations La Chaine de l’Espoir, and Afghan Children, and the Aga Khan University. This collaboration is today unique in Afghanistan and will bring to the Afghan population a new high quality hospital that will be accessible to the underprivileged.
I particularly wish to congratulate also the two French philanthropic associations La Chaine de l’Espoir and Enfant Afghans whose President and Founder Prof. Alain Deloche, and President Dr. Eric Cheysson, of Enfants Afghans, are with us here today. I warmly congratulate them as well as the members of their team. Without them, this Institute would not exist.
The health condition of Afghan children is extremely poor. Neo-natal and infant mortality are among the highest in the world: one child in four does not reach the age of five years.
Out of one million children born each year in Afghanistan, 165,000 die within the first 30 days. Nineteen out of 20 births are outside a medical establishment. Out of one million future mothers, 17,000 will die of complications linked to their pregnancy. In Western countries this figure is 100, even less, for the same million births.
This infinitely serious situation justifies in itself the support of the Aga Khan University and the Aga Khan Health Services, but three additional reasons have prompted our engagement in the future management of this institution.
The first is that the Non-Governmental Organisations and the French and foreign enterprises who have contributed to the creation of this project have done so in a particularly sophisticated manner, bringing to Afghanistan, an institution and buildings comprising a very elaborate complex whose components were conceived with a vision of the future clearly in mind. Therefore, for example, the plans of the hospital have been established in a manner which allows for development and expansion, and of course the buildings are constructed according to anti-seismic norms.
The second reason is that France has engaged to continue its support by making available the necessary human resources to assure the provision of high quality medical treatment.
Finally, the third reason is that the Aga Khan Health Services have, at the regional level, a significant hospital network comprising the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi; a hospital in Bombay in India; our engagement in the hospital in Khorog in the East of Tajikistan; and the management of the hospital in Bamyan. In fact, it was logical that our desire to help in the reconstruction of Afghanistan qualifies us to manage the French Medical Institute for Children in Kabul, known earlier as the Mother and Child Hospital.
Allow me to close on a vision of the future for this Institute, a vision which I know is already shared by the Afghan Government and the French Government, the French philanthropic associations La Chaine de l’Espoir and Enfants Afghans, the Aga Khan University and the Aga Khan Health Services.
We are all convinced that Afghanistan today and for a number of years to come has a great need of men and women qualified in the medical and para-medical domain. The lack of human resources is in fact dramatic, because there is, according to the World Bank statistics of 2004, only one doctor for 5000 inhabitants. In comparison, France has 15.
As a result, it is clear that we must envisage training for nurses and doctors within this Institute. There too, we will engage in strategic reflection with the Afghan Government and the French medical institutions in order to conceive and put in place these training programmes, so critical for the future.
We therefore are highly desirous that this hospital develops into a high level university hospital tertiary care centre which will offer new specialisations – essential for Afghanistan – such as neuroscience, cardiology, oncology and many other fields of medicine, which best meet the needs of the country.