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Local doctor makes 18th trip to Afghanistan

A hospital in Kabul, funded by donations collected by a Fresno non-profit, recently opened a neonatal unit.
A local doctor has just returned from his 18th trip to Afghanistan.  Dr. Mark Scoffield and Davena Witcher are two of the leaders behind American Medical Overseas Relief, or AMOR.  It's a non-profit that built and operates a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan.  It's backed, in part, by the Assemi family of Granville Homes.

Scoffield and Witcher scroll through pictures taken at Afshar Hospital, where Scoffield has just returned from checking in on the brand new neonatal unit.

“Progress is being made,” said Scoffield.

Witcher spent 15 years as a neonatal nurse and much of that time working out of the emergency helicopter at Children’s Hospital.  Her training helped launch a 12 bed nursery at Afshar, something the region badly needed.  There's a 25% mortality rate of children under five.  While visiting a government hospital there, she was overcome with grief.

“As I pulled back the blanket I realized the baby had passed and there had not been any medical services that had come through; no physician had visited that baby, no nursing staff and the mother was literally standing there comforting that deceased child,” said Witcher, AMOR’s Outreach Coordinator.

Afshar is the first hospital built and operated by a non-profit.  It's 40-thousand square feet and serves over 3,000 patients each month.  Now in it's fourth year, the hospital employees 150 Afghans and operates on about $1.6 million per year.

“They're starting to grasp the idea, they're building their own future,” said Scoffield.

Patients who can afford it are charged a fee, but no one is turned away.  Incredibly, Scoffield, Witcher and one other AMOR employee do all the fundraising to keep the doors open.

“To have an opportunity to touch other people's lives in that way is an unbelievable blessing in my life,” said Witcher.

AMOR hopes the hospital becomes self-sufficient in a few years.  It’s already exploring where it can next help others in need.

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