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  • His Highness the Aga Khan speaking at the foundation ceremony for the new Women's Wing at FMIC as Afghanistan's Vice President, Mohammad Karim Khalili, and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France look on.
    AKDN / Gary Otte
Foundation ceremony of the FMIC Women's Wing


Your Excellency Vice President Khalili
Monsieur Laurent Fabius, Ministre des Affaires Etrangères de la République Française
Ministers in the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Members of the Provisional Operating Committee of the FMIC
Distinguished Guests and Friends
Assalam-o-Alaikum, Good Morning and Bonjour

It is indeed a pleasure to welcome you today as we celebrate the success and the expansion of the French Medical Institute for Children.

As you know, the FMIC has been treating the children of Afghanistan for more than six years – offering care at the highest international standards – and transforming the lives of so many families in this country.

In a relatively short time, the hospital has developed a truly impressive facility and capability. For example, last year, over 300 heart surgeries were done on babies.

In its short history FMIC has performed more than 10,000 pediatric surgeries for cases such as birth defects, heart diseases, limb deformities, as well as accidents. It was the first hospital in Afghanistan to do heart surgeries, and already, 1,200 have been performed. The hospital has treated more than 400,000 outpatients and more than 23,000 children have been admitted for treatment. This Institute has created more than a quarter million diagnostic images - and conducted over a million and a half lab tests.

And the impact of this facility has been felt across the region, as it also connects with other leading hospitals: the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, in addition to many hospitals in France.

This accomplishment results from a unique partnership – with inputs from four different sources. The four anchors are the governments of Afghanistan and France, joined by two private entities, the French NGO – La Chaîne de L’Espoir/Enfants Afghans – and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).

What we have created here, however, is not some highly exceptional showcase to benefit a privileged few.

What this project is doing is charting a course towards sustainable health solutions all across Afghanistan. In fact, FMIC is a critical hub for the AKDN Integrated Health system, which is designed to bring international standard primary, secondary and tertiary health care to the people of Central Asia, including those in the remotest areas. This system is built on three basic commitments.

The first of these commitments is to providing care of the very highest quality.

One mark of that quality is the fact that FMIC is the first hospital in Afghanistan to achieve ISO 9001: 2008 certification. And it is currently preparing to meet the most demanding standard in hospital quality - accreditation from the American Joint Commission International.

In addition, I am pleased to note, and I think that this is particularly important, is that the Bamyan Provincial Hospital managed by the Aga Khan Health Services, the Community Midwifery Education and our Basic Health Centres in Shiber District also achieved ISO 8001-2009 certification last month - the first provincial hospital and health programmes in the country to do so.

What all of this means for Afghanistan, quite simply, is that people here no longer need to feel they must venture outside the country in order to get quality health care.

A second core mission of the FMIC is broadening access to care – to reach the local population, including the indigent and needy. The key to meeting this challenge is the Hospital’s generous welfare program. To put it very simply, no one is denied care at the FMIC because of his or her inability to pay.

Since 2006, over 200,000 patients coming from all 34 provinces of Afghanistan have benefitted from the welfare program. In 2012, that is this year, 90% of inpatients will receive welfare support. The four partner organizations have contributed generously to the cost of this program – some $15 million – as have others donors such as Roshan Telecom – and our deepest gratitude goes out to all of them.

Financial access has not been the only problem. Physical access to care can also be a difficult barrier. But in this case, new technologies have opened up new pathways. These are e-health facilities - electronic connections, which allow for tele-consultations to patients, tele-radiology and pathology analysis and e-learning sessions for continuing education. Telemedicine links to the Provincial Hospitals in Bamyan and Faizabad, and the Khorog General Hospital in Tajikistan, bring world-class care to remote areas. The number to date of such tele-consultations is 3,400, the number of tele-radiology images that have been interpreted is 3,300 – and altogether 2,000 staff have benefitted from e-learning.

Afghanistan has been a pioneer in using modern technology to reach out to the general population and we look forward to expanding such connections to other provincial hospitals in the country and in the region.

Expanding quality and broadening access would not be possible, however, without a third component – a rapidly growing pool of qualified health care professionals. This is why we have emphasized programmes for training and mentoring Afghan nationals for such roles. We are also working to attract health professionals in the diaspora to return to Afghanistan.

As a result, our earlier reliance on expatriates to do these jobs has been falling – in fact, of the 555 staff members here at the FMIC, 96 percent are now Afghans.

At the same time, the Continuing Medical Education program is helping doctors and nurses working elsewhere in Kabul to update and upgrade their skills. For example, we established in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health - a Post Graduate Program in Pediatric Medicine and Pediatric Surgery, with initial financing from the Canadian International Development Agency. I also wish to mention the training of community midwives in Badakhshan, which is supported by the German Government, through its development agency KfW, and nursing education at the Ghazanfar Institute of Health Sciences, supported by USAID. We express our gratitude to these agencies.

We are here today to celebrate a new project - one that promises to take us into an equally exciting future.

Phase 2 of the FMIC project is the Women’s Wing – designed to provide and inspire superior obstetric and gynaecological care here in Kabul – and throughout the region. The new wing will add a total of 52 maternal beds, along with two Operating Rooms and six delivery rooms. A new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit will be added, again first the first time in Afghanistan.

The building will carefully anticipate a wide variety of needs - at a cost of some 17.7 million dollars, provided by the Government of France, through the Agence Française de Développement and the Aga Khan Development Network. This cooperative project builds on a wide array of such partnerships between the AKDN and the Government of France. Together, for example, we are now developing Heart and Cancer Centres in East Africa, as well as a variety of cross-border health initiatives in Central Asia. Let me take this opportunity to pay special tribute to the French hospitals as well as missions of doctors and nurses, in addition to our partner, La Chaîne de L’Espoir, for their professional commitment and remarkable contribution. Thank you.

Monsieur le Ministre, permettez-moi, également, de vous dire combien je vous suis reconnaissant d’avoir voulu honorer cette cérémonie de votre présence.

There is one more dimension of our future vision that deserves to be mentioned before we conclude. I refer to an exciting plan to create, on the land adjacent to this site, a great new Kabul International Medical Centre – a Centre of Excellence for providing tertiary care services and medical education of the highest quality. This new complex will be an intellectual and service hub for an integrated health delivery system serving the entire Central Asian region.

The region includes the neighbouring countries of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Northern Pakistan, Kazakhstan and even Western China, where the Integrated Health System would impact over 100 million people. The success of this regional initiative, in my view, is predicated on public-private partnerships that sustain the institutions through best practice. Indeed the relationship we have established with this hospital and those in Bamyan and Faizabad are models of such partnerships.

The Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to this vision – like the generous spirit of our French partners – is something that continues to inspire us all – as we work together to improve the quality of life for the people of this country and this region – and for generations yet unborn.

Thank you.