Zambia has signed a US$100 million soft loan with the Saudi Arabian government for the construction of an 800 bed specialist referral hospital for women and children.

Meanwhile, the two governments have also signed a US$5 million export support agreement to enhance trade relations between Zambia and that country.

At a signing ceremony between the Finance Minister and Saudi Arabia Delegation, Wednesday, Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya said the hospital, which will be called King Salman bin Abdulaziz Specialised Hospital, will provide reproductive and child health services.

“With this hospital, we now have capacity to provide specialist reproductive health services and specialist child health services. Zambia today sends children to India for specialist treatment, particularly cardiac, renal and neurosurgical [issues]. And with the completion of this facility we will be able to handle all those cases locally,” said Dr Chilufya.

He stated that the hospital would enhance medical tourism.

And Mutati said he was grateful for the support and would further engage the delegation on a number of other projects.

“We have had critical cooperation on the bilateral basis with Saudi Arabia for some time. You will recall that Saudi Arabia supported us at the University Teaching Hospital by providing us with almost $20 million in terms of facility. They also supported us in the Kalabo-Sikongo road. We have also had support in the area of fertilizer from Saudi Arabia and in addition we have had support in the fuel sector. So these are critical bilateral issues that we have worked with Saudi Arabia,” said Mutati.

“This relationship was reinvigorated when His Excellency the President Lungu went to Saudi Arabia and met the King. At that time, they agreed that Saudi Arabia will provide financing for the construction of a children’s hospital worth over a US$100 million. And today, we have endorsed that engagement that they had last May. We have just signed a financing facility of US$102 million to construct 800 bed hospital here in Lusaka.”

Meanwhile, the Saudi Fund for Development vice chairman and managing director Yousef Al-Bassam said the agreement would enhance the good relations that existed between the two countries.

“A soft loan agreement in the amount of US$100 million has been signed between the Government of the Republic of Zambia and the Saudi Fund for Development. The amount of this loan is allocated for financing a vital project in the health sector, namely the construction of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Specialised Hospital in Lusaka. The project aims to participate in providing for decent medical care for the population and special medical services that are not available in the country,” said Al-Bassam.

And Saudi Export Program director general Ahmad Al-Ghannan signed US$5 million with DBZ to enhance the trade relationship between the two countries.

DBZ managing director Jacob Lushinga said the agreement was encouraging in the bank’s quest to help government in economic development.