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China, Africa push for healthier communities

Updated: Jul 16,2020 09:45 AM    Xinhua

KAMPALA — China on July 15 donated an assortment of medical supplies to Uganda in what has turned out to be an annual norm as the two countries bolster ties in efforts to build a healthier community.

Zheng Zhuqiang, Chinese ambassador to Uganda handed over the supplies, which included medicines and equipment, to the China-Uganda Friendship Hospital in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

The 100-bed hospital itself was a donation from the Chinese government and there are plans, according to the hospital administration, to expand the facility.

In the hospital corridors and wards, it is common to find Chinese doctors clad in white medical overall coats. China has been sending medical teams to Uganda since 1983.

This kind of medical aid is a common phenomenon in many African countries, dating back to 1963 when China sent its first medical team to Africa.

This year marks 14 years since the first Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit held in Beijing. The FOCAC framework is designed to deepen the China-Africa cooperation. In most of the FOCAC summits, health commitments have featured high.

During the last summit held in 2018 in Beijing, China announced collaboration in eight key areas, and healthcare was among them. The other areas are industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity-building, people-to-people exchanges, peace and security.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has tested the China-Africa healthcare provision ties. Despite being hit hard by the pandemic, China did not get tired of sending medical aid to Africa where COVID-19 cases are on the rise.

An Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19 was held last month via video link in efforts to support Africa to fight the pandemic.

"China will lose no time in following through on the measures I announced at the opening of the World Health Assembly, and continue to help African countries by providing supplies, sending expert teams, and facilitating Africa's procurement of medical supplies in China," said Chinese President Xi Jinping at the summit.

He said China will start ahead of schedule the construction of the Africa Center for Diseases Control headquarters this year, work with Africa to fully deliver the healthcare initiative adopted at the FOCAC Beijing Summit, and speed up the construction of China-Africa Friendship Hospitals and the cooperation between paired-up Chinese and African hospitals.

"We pledge that once the development and deployment of COVID-19 vaccine is completed in China, African countries will be among the first to benefit," said Xi.

China has so far sent the much needed supplies, dispatched medical experts, and shared its anti-epidemic experience via video conferences with several African countries.

The African Union in a communique issued on June 13 appreciated China's effort including setting aside a portion of its manufacturing capacity to ensure the supply of 30 million testing kits, 10,000 ventilators and 80 million masks each month for the continent.

Emmanuel Batibwe, a medical expert and director of China-Uganda Friendship Hospital told Xinhua on July 15 that the two sides, Africa and China, now need to advance their cooperation in areas of research and human resource development.

Batibwe said through the medical cooperation, both sides can have student exchange programs where the Chinese medical students come to Africa and learn about tropical diseases while the African students can go to China and learn areas of interest to the continent.

Chinese experts and their African colleagues can also use the collaboration to carry out joint research, he said.