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Volume 410: debated on Monday 18 August 2003

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To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what the Government are doing to equip hospitals in Afghanistan. [129446]

The Afghanistan Transitional Administration (ATA) has asked donors to concentrate on a few key areas of the reconstruction effort where they can have most impact. In response to this and after consultation with the ATA and other donors, the UK is concentrating on building the capacity of the Afghan Government, humanitarian aid and programmes to support the development of income generation.Healthcare is not currently one of DFID's focus areas in Afghanistan, and we are therefore not involved in equipping hospitals. Nevertheless, we have funded a consultant that has worked with the Ministry of Health on hospital management.We also fund Afghanistan's reconstruction effort through multi-lateral channels. The UK is the fourth largest donor to UNICEF and provided £44 million overall funding in 2002. We provide 19 per cent. of the European Union's £282 million package of reconstruction support for Afghanistan for 2003–04, of which £17.5 million:.s programmed for the health sector to help reduce infant and maternal mortality by providing a basic healthcare package. We are also contributing towards the World Bank's Afghanistan Health Sector Emergency Reconstruction and Development Project, which aims to help expand delivery of basic health services and works to ensure equitable access, particularly for women and children.Since April 2002, the European Commission has worked with the United States to rebuild 72 hospitals, clinics and women's healthcare centres, revise the national curriculum for midwives and vaccinate £4.3 million children against measles. Over 2003 and 2004, the EC will channel support through the Government to deliver health services to three million people and help to reduce the unacceptably high levels of child and maternal mortality.UNICEF has supported Emergency Obstetric Care services in 20 districts and refurbished Malalai hospital, the largest maternity hospital in Kabul, with 15,000 deliveries every year. UNICEF plans to launch other facilities in Kandahar, Herat and Jalalabad to build up the maternal health infrastructure.