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Publication Date: Friday, October 03, 2003

Afghan hospital needs help Afghan hospital needs help (October 03, 2003)

MV resident takes on big job of helping out maternity hospital in Kabul

By Julie O'Shea

Rabia Balkhi Hospital sits in the middle of a busy street in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan. It is one of the city's leading maternity hospitals, seeing some 36,000 patients a year and delivering between 50 and 80 babies a day.

Yet the facility doesn't have enough tables, let alone beds, to accommodate each woman in labor. Sutures and needles are also in short supply. Not surprisingly, the maternal mortality rate is devastatingly high.

For Mountain View resident Jane Sinense these circumstances are not just shocking, they are unacceptable. A documentary she watched last May on the atrocities facing the physicians at this Middle East hospital horrified Sinense, a freelance Web designer and graphic artist who has never been to Afghanistan.

Sinense said she knew at that moment she had to do something to right this alarming situation happening half a world away. Barely three months later, Sinense started putting the Rabia Balkhi Hospital Project into motion. She has managed to collect $5,000 within the last eight weeks. Her immediate goal is $30,000, which would be enough to purchase the equipment doctors at Rabia Balkhi say they urgently need.

"The hospital has an emergency situation, and no one is helping," said Mark Kadir of the Society of Afghan Engineers, a nonprofit, nonpolitical organization dedicated to rebuilding Afghanistan.

It was reported that the U.S. Department of Defense earlier this year announced plans to rebuild Rabia Balkhi's maternal and child health section, but Kadir, unaware of the United States' plans, said he has been told that no construction projects have started at the busy maternity hospital.

On Rabia Balkhi's "wish list" is an operating table, an anesthesia machine, a portable X-Ray machine and a cardiovascular monitor, among other things.

"I've always had an interest in helping people," Sinense said. "The country (Afghanistan) has nothing. They are really starting from scratch."

Sinense took her crusade to the Mountain View and Palo Alto Farmer's Markets, passing out brochures urging residents to donate whatever money they can. Sinense said all the money she's raised so far has come out of the pockets of average homeowners, touched by the dire circumstances highlighted in Sinense's homemade brochures.

City Council member Rosemary Stasek has been to Afghanistan twice and hopes to return next year. She describes the utter poverty that exists there and explains how it has touched her soul.

"It captures you," Stasek said. "There is something about the place that just captures you."

Stasek said Sinense has approached her about helping with the hospital project. And Stasek said she's eager to do whatever she can.

"It really is individuals who are critical to helping projects get done,' she said. "I'm looking forward to working with Jane."

The first order of business is to raise enough cash. After that, Sinense said she hopes to purchase all the equipment on Rabia Balkhi's list and with the help of the Society of Afghan Engineers, ship it over to the Middle East.

But Sinense said she doesn't plan to just stop with Rabia Balkhi. She'd like to go global, starting, of course, one step at a time.

Those interested in making a donation can send a check made out to the Society of Afghan Engineers, in care of Jane Sinense at
505 Cypress Point Drive No. 135, Mountain View, CA 94043.
E-mail questions to

E-mail Julie O'Shea at


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