PESHAWAR – 23 June, 2015: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Mr. António Guterres inaugurated the newly constructed Emergency Assessment Unit (EAU) at the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital (SKMCH) in Peshawar on Tuesday.
The new block will benefit around 9,500 patients per year, 25 per cent of whom will be Afghan refugees. Federal Minister of States and Frontier Regions, Lt. Gen. (R) Abdul Qadir Baloch; UNHCR Representative in Pakistan , Mr. Indrika Ratwatte; Commissioner Afghan Refugees, Mr. Waqar Maroof as well as Chief Executive Officer Dr. Faisal Sultan; Medical Director Dr. Aasim Yousuf, and Director Marketing Tariq Azam, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital were also present at the occasion.
Mr. Guterres commended the unprecedented charitable work of the SKMCH in providing specialized medical care and free of cost treatment to thousands of underprivileged cancer patients in Pakistan, including Afghan refugees, for the past two decades. The High Commissioner was briefed by the SKMCH team about the hospital project in Peshawar and was taken for a round of the newly constructed building.
The construction of the EAU is funded by the People of the United States of America through UNHCR and the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees under the joint Government and UN’s Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) Initiative. The total cost of the project is Rs. 35 million (USD 350,000) of which Rs. 30.50 million represents the construction cost and Rs.4.50 million the cost of the medical equipment.
Dr. Faisal Sultan, Chief Executive Officer of SKMCH highlighted the need and importance of a cancer hospital in Peshawar. He mentioned that nearly 40 per cent of the patients being treated at the Hospital in Lahore come from the KP province, northern areas and Afghanistan. He said, that, the construction of a comprehensive cancer diagnosis and treatment facility in Peshawar will not only provide state-of-the-art cancer treatment services to the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, irrespective of their ability to pay, but also help raise healthcare standards and provide training and employment opportunities in the wider region. Dr. Faisal appreciated the support extended by RAHA and UNHCR for the construction of the Emergency Assessment Unit.
The High Commissioner also appreciated the Provincial Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for hosting nearly one million Afghan refugees in line with the Islamic values of hospitality and generosity. Mr. Guterres reiterated his agency’s commitment to burden sharing with Pakistan for hosting the world’s largest protracted refugee population for over thirty-five-years.
“The international community highly values Pakistan’s generous support to Afghan refugees, despite facing a myriad of internal challenges,” said the High Commissioner and added, “the RAHA programme is a concrete initiative to support Pakistan not only in providing assistance to Afghan refugees but also alleviating the burden on their hosting countries.”
To date, some 10.6 million people have benefited from RAHA projects, of which overall around 11 per cent are Afghan refugees whilst 89 per cent have been Pakistani citizens in refugee hosting villages. Since its commencement in 2009, some 3,500 RAHA projects worth USD 175 million, have been implemented across Pakistan and in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in infrastructure, water and sanitation, education, livelihood/ skills training, health and social protection. These projects have been implemented by UNHCR, UNDP, government line department and other UN agencies and partner organizations.
The RAHA initiative is a core component of the regional Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) endorsed by the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan and UNHCR in May 2012, to provide a predictable roadmap for solutions and better management of Afghan refugees in the region.