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    New maternity hospital in Helmand; more needed in Kabul

    LASHKARGAH (PAN): The foundation stone of a new maternity hospital was laid in southern Helmand province on Saturday, a major step in a country which has one of the world's highest maternal mortality rates.

    The hospital, called Fatima Bayat-Mother, Children Hospital, is being built in Shaheed Ghaltan area of Helmand's capital, Lashkargah.

    It is funded by the Bayat Foundation, a welfare organization owned by Ihsaanullah Bayat, an Afghan philanthropist who was present at the inaugural ceremony.

    Also attending were public health director, Dr Suraya Dalil, provincial governor, Muhammad Gulab Mangal, provincial public health director, Enayatullah Ghafarzai, MPs of the province and other government and non-government officials.

    "The hospital would take eight months to complete," Bayat said, adding that he would make more hospitals in the province so that residents did not need to go to neighbouring countries for treatment.

    Dalil said Afghanistan had an alarming child and mother mortality rate. She urged the international community to pay special heed to the lives of small children and mothers in the country. Afghanistan's maternal death rate is about 1,800 per 100,000 live births, compared to the US which is 11 per 100,000.

    Mangal said such hospitals would help reduce the deaths of newborns and women during delivery.

    Ghafarzai said much more needed to be done to overcome existing health problems of the province.

    Recently, there had been complaints that Boost Hospital, the main hospital in the province, was unable to address the needs of people as its staff was overwhelmed by the number of patients.

    Meanwhile in Kabul, doctors have called for more maternity hospitals because of an increase in the birthrate.

    Better health services and greater public awareness about the importance of going to medical clinics meant there were more women reaching full term, said Dr Alhaj Muhammad Maroof Sami, a doctor at Malalay Zizhanton Hospital in Kabul.

    He told Pajhwok Afghan News that four years before, about 70 babies were born every day at the hospital, but now that number had increased to 120.

    During the Taliban rule, nearly three million people were living in the country's capital while now it is five million. He urged the Ministry of Public Health to construct more hospitals in the province.

    A female doctor at Rabia Balkhi Hospital, Dr Shafiqa Brishna, also echoed Sami's call, saying it was difficult for them to cope with the growing number of patients.