China and Africa have been a community of shared interests and shared destiny. Their collaboration benefits not only the development of China and Africa but also promotes the unity and cooperation of developing countries. Health cooperation is a powerful testimony to the friendship between Chinese and African people. Based on win-win cooperation and aiming at the well-being of the people, China and Africa have attained fruitful results through health cooperation over the last five decades.
China started to deploy medical teams to other developing countries in 1963. So far, it has sent 24,000 medical workers to 66 countries and regions in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and Oceania, treating nearly 270 million patients. Chinese medical teams are now deployed in 51 countries and regions, including 42 African countries, with 1,178 medical workers at 115 medical centers. Twenty-seven Chinese provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have been shouldering the responsibility to send medical teams to the African continent. Till now, more than 1,000 Chinese medical team members have received medals and awards from African leaders; more than 50 have died of disease, injuries, turmoil or accidents in the line of duty.
Angels in white
Of all cooperation projects, Chinese medical assistance to Africa started the earliest, with the most remarkable results and covering the most African countries. Medical personnel have carried forward China's fine traditions, overcoming difficulties in work with dedication and superb medical skills. They have made excellent contributions to medical care development and people's health in recipient countries, and deepened the friendship between China and these countries. Warmly welcomed and praised by the recipient governments and their people, the Chinese medical teams have been hailed as "models of South-South cooperation" and medical workers as "angels in white," "envoys of friendship" and "diplomats in white coats."
Since the First Ministerial Forum of China-Africa Health Development was successfully held in Beijing in August 2013, China has innovated on health cooperation with Africa and upgraded the cooperation level to meet the higher expectations and requirements of recipient countries under the new circumstances. China has carried out Brightness Action campaigns in six African countries and provided free cataract surgeries to over 2,000 patients. China has built ophthalmic centers in four African countries and paired Chinese hospitals with those in six African countries for collaboration. China has established standard traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinics in 10 African countries where Chinese medical teams are based and held 113 health-related training courses for over 2,100 African health administrators and medical workers. Through cooperation in technology, and education and volunteers, China has promoted medical technology transfer and helped African countries improve their independent development capacity in health services. China and Comoros have jointly undertaken a project aimed at eliminating malaria by using artemisinin, reducing the malaria mortality rate to zero in Comoros in eight years. The pilot project to prevent and control schistosomiasis conducted by China and Zanzibar, along with the World Health Organization (WHO), has achieved positive results.
China supports African countries' efforts to build medical facilities and health service capacity. Since 2013, the Chinese Government has constructed 38 medical facilities and provided 50 batches of medical equipment and supplies to African countries. Chinese enterprises and non-governmental organizations have helped African people get better medical services by means including building and running hospitals, investing in pharmaceutical factories and localizing medicine production.
In 2014, an Ebola outbreak occurred in Western Africa. China worked with the international community to assist the affected countries to combat the disease. China sent four batches of assistance worth $120 million and more than 1,200 medical workers to 13 countries, including the countries affected and their neighbors. To help the affected countries increase their public healthcare capacity, China sent a mobile bio-safety laboratory to Sierra Leone and built a permanent one there to improve the nation's ability to detect the virus. Over 30 batches of experts on public health, clinical medicine and laboratory testing were dispatched to 11 countries, such as Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, helping train nearly 13,000 local medical workers and health personnel in remote areas of these countries.
At the Second Ministerial Forum of China-Africa Health Development in October, China and Africa expanded consensus and made clear the direction of their health cooperation. The forum became a new milestone in China-Africa friendship and cooperation. China will continue to carry forward the principle of "sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith" to explore more ways for mutually beneficial cooperation, to take the new model of China-Africa strategic partnership to a new high and bring more benefits to their people.
Good health is the foundation of a happy life, an eternal pursuit of human beings, and a symbol of national prosperity and people's well-being. In the proposed 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) approved at the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, China put forward the goal of developing a "healthy China." Having similar development experience and sharing the same pursuit of health, China and Africa should strengthen pragmatic cooperation, learn from each other and address the challenges in the health sector to achieve common development.
Ways to better future
For future health cooperation, I'd like to put forward the following suggestions:
First, health cooperation between China and Africa should be comprehensively improved, based on the construction of a public health system. The African Union's (AU) Agenda 2063 emphasizes the construction of a public health system and puts forward the goal of promoting access to healthcare services in Africa. In the future, China-Africa health cooperation should focus on the construction of a public health system, and the international community should fulfill its commitment to development assistance and achieve the AU Agenda 2063 goal together.
At the special session of the United Nations General Assembly, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced China would establish assistance funds for South-South cooperation and establish 100 hospitals and clinics to support other developing countries. On the basis of Africa's need, consent and participation, China will support African countries to establish appropriate health service systems and disease prevention and control systems to enhance their ability in public health surveillance, disease forecasting and rapid response, and to guarantee the management of public health emergencies in a timely manner.
China will cooperate with African countries in key areas such as the prevention and treatment of malaria and schistosomiasis, women and children's health and reproductive health to seek an earlier solution to the major public health issues haunting African countries.
Second, we should strengthen cooperation among hospitals and enterprises to increase African people's access to basic medical products and services. In the next three years, China will dispatch 1,500 medical personnel to 40 African countries to provide free treatments, including cataract surgeries. China will also conduct specialist training courses and academic and technological exchanges in Africa. In addition, China will support 20 high-level Chinese medical institutions to work with their counterparts in Africa in an effort to enhance the performance of African clinical specialists, and expand cooperation and exchanges in appropriate medical technology to train medical specialists for African countries.
In an era of economic globalization, medical science and technology develop rapidly. China and Africa should learn from each other, and ensure that the benefit of development can be shared by the people.
On October 5, Chinese medical scientist Tu Youyou was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. She discovered and extracted artemisinin based on TCM research and found a new way to cure malaria. This benefited billions of people and saved millions of patients' lives worldwide. Compound medicine based on artemisinin is now the first option for malaria treatment. Tu's achievements make us proud and demonstrate TCM's contribution to human health, which will further promote China-Africa health cooperation.
China and African countries should strengthen cooperation and set up a multi-level and comprehensive partnership in pharmaceuticals and health. In the next three years, China will support large pharmaceutical and health enterprises to set up joint ventures in African countries, transferring relevant technologies to African countries and providing African people with accessible, reliable and affordable medical products, vaccines and medical equipment.
China also needs African countries' cooperation in the standardization and certification of medicines and healthcare products, trade facilitation, establishment of pharmaceutical industrial parks, and preferential policies. China hopes Africa will encourage joint ventures and cooperation between Chinese and African enterprises to ensure more medical technology and products are transferred into Africa faster, benefiting Africans.
Third, China and Africa should set up a health cooperation partnership that is concerted, collaborative and open. Both sides should work together to improve communication mechanisms to make health cooperation a new highlight. China will work hard to make the Ministerial Forum of China-Africa Health Development an important platform and effective mechanism to promote health cooperation as a sub-forum of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. China is willing to carry out comprehensive and lasting health cooperation, set up a communication mechanism, and enhance practical cooperation with the AU, sub-regional African organizations and African countries.
The Chinese Government encourages enterprises, institutions of higher learning, organizations and individuals to participate in and support African health development. China supports the global health initiatives passed by WHO, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS and other international organizations, as well as relevant countries, foundations and enterprises. China advocates all sides to utilize advantages and strengthen cooperation to support African health development, and realize the sustainable development of global health.
To maintain global healthcare security, China and African countries should work together to make great contributions. In an ever-changing world, healthcare that is guaranteed and keeps improving is the foundation and aim of all countries in their pursuit of sustainable development, which will benefit the future generations. With joint efforts, I believe health cooperation will become the new engine, driving force and highlight of China-Africa cooperation.