By Bukola Ogunsina, Beijing, China.
China has recently declared as part of its new health commitments to provide Africa with the popular anti-malaria medication, Artemisinin, for five million people. This was revealed in an interactive session with Chinese health officials in Beijing as they hosted African journalists from the 2017 China Africa Press Centre programme.
At the meeting which took place at the Health Ministry, the Deputy Director General of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, Mr Feng Yong, told journalists that through its China Africa Public Health Cooperation Project, China will also assist Africa to build health systems and policies in the areas of; disease surveillance, strengthening of prevention and treatment of malaria and other communicable diseases, improvement of maternal and child healthcare and reproductive health.
China is also prepared to support cooperation between 20 hospitals of China and Africa, providing training for doctors, nurses, public health workers and administrative personnel.
Yong who noted that China had been sending medical teams to Africa since 1963, revealed free surgeries carried out by medical teams from China in Africa. “There have been free cataract surgery in Botswana, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Ghana, Morocco, Burundi and Sierra Leone since 2014,” he indicated. He also added that China will offer scholarships in the sector to more than 800 people in average annually.
Similarly, the country is also committed in supporting building of an African Union Disease Control Centre and regional medical research centres with reinforced laboratory and diagnostic capacities. The Deputy Director General said that China was presently in dialogue with Africa Union (AU) officials at headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to establish African Centre for Disease Control (ACDC) in Addis, with sub regional centres in Nigeria, Zambia, Egypt, and Gabon with the final outcome of the decision to be made by AU.
“We are going to continue to support Malaria control in Africa and encourage Chinese investors to invest in African countries. This is our commitment to African countries,” Yong said.
Yong has also noted in his presentation that China will continue to send medical teams to Africa, including short term teams consisting of clinical experts and other short term free medical services. China will support the investment by Chinese medical and health product industries in Africa, while encouraging Chinese enterprises to jointly operate hospitals in Africa, improve health infrastructure through construction, renovation and equipping of medical facilities, strengthen high level dialogue in health and incorporate the Ministerial Forum on China-Africa Health Cooperation as an official sub-forum under the framework of FOCAC.
Meanwhile, the deputy Director General indicated China’s signed eight bilateral agreements with countries across Africa, namely; Congo Republic, Niger, Chad, Zambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Malawi and Sierra Leone.
In terms of health projects in Africa, China played a vital role in the eradication of malaria in Comoros, where incident rates were said to be at 142 percent in 2006 and reduced drastically to 2.8 percent in 2014. China has also assisted with the control of Schistosoma in Tanzania and promoted pharmaceutical cooperation with African countries namely, Mali, Ethiopia, Uganda and Nigeria.
In similar developments, China assisted in the fight against Ebola in Africa since 2014 with over 1200 health professionals sent to three countries. Kind and cash donations were made to international organisations in this regard. China equally provided Ebola Clinic services in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and 8000 testing samples. The country provided Public health training for 12, 471 people in 13 countries, with 30 health professionals still currently working in Sierra Leone.
Yong strongly underlined training of more individuals in the health sector, saying, “It is very difficult recruiting doctors to work in foreign countries, which in turn makes it difficult to increase our professionals working overseas. What we will do is to teach you how to fish….We will provide more training.” He observed that future training will be rendered for Orthopaedics, paediatrics, gynaecology and obstetrics.
As high maternal and child mortality rate continues to be a cause for concern, Yong equally suggested launching of nutrition package to children under the age of five. “We will contribute to support the human capacity to provide medical services to the local people.”
On reasons why China is strongly supporting Africa’s health sector, Yong said, “We want to contribute our support, and share international responsibility. This is a part of our international responsibility to global development. And this also stems from our long-time friendship with Africa,” he said, adding that Africa has given both economic and political support to China. “We have common interests and common ideological thinking on international matters. …I believe it’s a mutual support that both countries can benefit from,” he said.
In terms of fake drugs, Yong urged Africans to import medicines from government recognised pharmacies in order to prevent circulation of fake drugs, and also to check for security codes on the packaged drugs that will inform the buyer about the drug in question. The health official emphasised that China will design its projects according to World Health Organisation’s technical guidelines.