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Pa. nonprofit group committed to Afghanistan despite hospital shooting

| Thursday, April 24, 2014, 12:21 p.m.
Afghan policemen stand at the gate of Cure Hospital after three American doctors were killed on Thursday, April 24, 2014, in Kabul. They were killed when a security guard opened fire at the international hospital in the Afghan capital, security sources said, in the latest of a series of attacks against foreign civilians.

From their central Pennsylvania headquarters, CURE International workers would go anywhere the downtrodden most need health care and Christian ministry, board member Sandra Lamb says.

Whether the global nonprofit group in Cumberland County might reconsider its medical services in Afghanistan appeared an open question since an Afghan police officer killed three Americans, including at least one doctor, on Thursday at CURE International Hospital of Kabul. Another medical worker was wounded.

CURE board members were mourning and had yet to discuss their future in the country, where the organization has offered its help since 2002, Lamb said.

“If we can maintain and ensure the safety and security of all our employees, we'll continue to be obedient and fulfill our mission of healing the sick and preaching the gospel,” said board member Roger Spoelman, CEO at Mercy Health hospital system in Michigan.

Either way, CEO Dale Brantner said CURE “remains committed to loving and serving the people of Afghanistan.”

“We are also deeply committed to protecting the health and welfare of our patients and staff,” Brantner said in a prepared statement. He said the tragedy “reinforces our need for vigilance.”

CURE, with headquarters in Lemoyne, has treated more than 2.1 million outpatients and trained more than 6,600 medical professionals in about 30 countries since Dr. Scott and Sally Harrison founded the charity in 1996.

A University of Pittsburgh-trained surgeon, Scott Harrison has said they started CURE on witnessing children with disabilities endure dire conditions in Malawi, in southeast Africa.

“What made the situation even more excruciating to me as an orthopedic surgeon was that I saw that these conditions could be treated and cured,” Harrison wrote on the CURE website. He could not be reached on Thursday.

CURE opened its first hospital in 1998 and maintains hospitals in 10 countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Uganda and Zambia. It began operating the Kabul hospital in 2005 at the invitation of the Afghan government, CURE reported.

CURE spokesman Ben Martin said he was not aware of other attacks on CURE operations, which employ about 1,600 people worldwide, not including volunteers.

About 40 of the paid employees work in headquarters. Its $53.9 million annual expense budget comes mainly from individual donors and foundations, according to CURE.

One of those killed, Dr. Jerry Umanos, had worked at the Kabul hospital for more than seven years. Umanos treated children and premature infants, returning occasionally to Chicago to see his family, co-workers said.

“He was always looking for where he could have the most impact with his medical training, no matter what that meant for his income,” said longtime colleague Dr. Art Jones.

Afghan officials did not identify the others killed.

The attack is a difficult test for the CURE staff, said Lamb, who runs the Lamb Advisors management advisory group in New York.

“We are a faith that forgives. We'll get to that point, I'm sure,” she said. “But it's very difficult right now.”

Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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