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by Xinhua writer Guo Yage
BEIJING, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) — With the first rays of sunlight shining into the clinic rooms, a group of doctors from east China’s Zhejiang Province were about to start work at the Friendship Hospital in the Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui.
As some 90 patients were waiting their turn in the hallways, loud noise of electricity generators resounded through the hospital. The hospital is struggling with fragile conditions. The walls are peeling. In rainy seasons, rains leaked through the roofs. And water and power outages are common for local people.
Those poor medical infrastructures have left thousands of people in the country vulnerable to diseases and with little access to health services.
Despite the harsh conditions, some 300 Chinese doctors and nurses have come to the African country since 1978 to help local people. Since its first medical aid team set off for Algeria in 1963, China has sent about 30,000 personnel to 76 countries and regions across five continents, providing 290 million diagnoses and treatments for local people.
Chinese medical teams are currently working at 115 medical centers in 56 countries around the world, most of which are in Africa. African people hail the Chinese medical workers as health messengers in white, models of South-South cooperation and most welcome guests.
ON MISSIONS TO HEAL AND RESCUE
“I could not see well in the right eye, and sometimes, after taking a few steps, it felt like I was about to fall. I came to the hospital and was diagnosed with cataract,” Elizabeth Dzokpe, a retired nurse from Kpando in the Volta Region of Ghana, told Xinhua.
To help her restore sight, the Chinese medical team stationed at the LEKMA Hospital in the country’s capital Accra offered a free surgery, and now Dzokpe regained a normal vision.
Dzokpe is one of the many beneficiaries of such free surgeries the medical team performed since last November. This program intends to treat as many low-income Ghanaians with cataracts as possible.
“Next to the gift of life is the gift of sight, because our sight lightens our world and makes us appreciate our existence better,” said Ghanaian Deputy Minister for Health Mahama Asei Seini.
The Chinese people love peace and cherish lives, which is vividly illustrated by their efforts in international medical assistance, Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a reply letter to the 19th Chinese medical team dispatched to the Central African Republic earlier this month.
True indeed. In Botswana, the 16th Chinese medical team dispatched to the country has performed 6,081 operations on local patients, rescued 4,044 critically ill patients, and delivered 605 babies over the last two years. Working in Sierra Leone for more than a year, the 23rd Chinese medical team has treated some 18,000 patients and made multiple breakthroughs in surgeries.
“These Chinese doctors made great sacrifices, and their stories are unfolding in the continent every day. This kind of humanity should be praised, and their stories will be told from generation to generation,” Benjamin Anyagre, general secretary of the Ghana-China Friendship Association, told Xinhua.
FRIENDS IN NEED
China and Africa together have written a splendid chapter of mutual assistance amidst complex changes. One of the best examples of the kind is their cooperation against various deadly viruses.
When China struggled to contain the COVID-19 pandemic within its borders, leaders of more than 50 African countries offered their sympathy and provided support to China’s battle against the virus. Later, China also proved a reliable friend in deed who honors its pledges of support for an Africa in need, delivering myriads of urgently-needed medical supplies, sending over teams of medical experts, and sharing its own anti-pandemic experience.
To fulfill its commitment to making COVID-19 vaccines a global public good, China has provided tens of thousands of vaccines to more than 50 African countries and the African Union. It has also helped Africa with producing COVID-19 vaccines, offering technology and expertise.
The solidarity between China and Africa demonstrated over the past three years has reminded many of what happened in the three years since 2014, when West Africa was plagued with one of the most deadly viruses in the world: Ebola.
From 2014 to 2016, China had sent over 1,000 medical personnel to the virus-stricken regions, and trained more than 13,000 local health personnel and community epidemic control coordinators for deployment to the affected areas. It had also offered ambulances, motorcycles, pickup trucks and portable incinerators to West Africa.
“It is in the hour of need that one discovers who your true friends are,” said Namibian President Hage Geingob.
The Chinese are always on the Africans’ side, said Teruneh Zenna, Ethiopia’s former ambassador to the United Nations. “I am looking forward to more cooperation between Africa and China in the field of public health.”
TOWARDS COMMUNITY OF HEALTH FOR ALL
Gazing at an iconic twin tower sitting on a once derelict land full of garbage in the southern suburbs of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, local resident Wakjira Totofa said, “It’s really like a dream.”
“We never thought we would see such a magnificent building in a short period,” said Totofa, a civil servant who lives in the neighborhood of the building hosting the headquarters of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Totofa has witnessed the dramatic change from “nothing to something” on his daily commute. The first phase of this flagship cooperation project was completed in January, another fine testament to China’s endeavor to build a China-Africa community of health for all.
In December 2015, China announced 10 major plans, including on public health, to boost cooperation with Africa in the following three years. Three years later, the country reaffirmed its commitment to building an even closer China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era. Both sides have pledged to build “a China-Africa community of health for all.”
In 2021, the Chinese president proposed to work closely with African countries to implement nine programs, the first of which is the medical and health program.
“I have been impressed by China’s active participation in promoting global health with a shared future. Chinese leadership under President Xi Jinping has focused on pursuing the greater good and shared interests across the world, which has boosted China’s efforts in maintaining good cooperation in global health,” said Emery Nzirabatinya, a Rwandan international relations expert. ■