Beijing, China – The People’s Republic of China has reemphasized its commitment to supporting Africa’s public health system as part of ways to solidifying friendship and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations.
The support is captured in a US$2 billion public health project as part of the country’s plan and commitment to supporting developing countries’ health system. Over 80% of this amount will go to African countries in order to help develop their respective public health systems.
The plan also encourages mobile medical teams, disease surveillance, strengthening prevention and treatment of malaria and other communicable diseases, enhance maternal, child, and reproductive health.
It will also support cooperation between 20 hospitals each from China and Africa, provide training for doctors, nurses, public health workers and administrative personnel.
Providing more detail about the plan on Tuesday in Beijing, Mr. Feng Yong, Deputy Director for International Cooperation at China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, said 100 hospitals and clinics will be built in 5 years, 120,000 persons will be train in China, and the provision of 150,000 scholarships, as well as 500,000 vocational and technical training in 5 years.
As part of the human development aspect of the plan, 30,000 women will be trained in China and 100,000 more will get training in vocational and technical medical skills in 5 years.
He stressed the difficulties in recruiting doctors to work in foreign countries, and said it’s a challenge for the country to increase the number of Chinese doctors on the continent.
“So, we are going to provide more training for Africans. In the future we are going to provide more training courses for pediatrician, gynecologists, optometrists and several other specialists,” Mr. Feng told Africa journalists during a press conference.
“We need to support human capacity in the developing countries and this is key in helping them provide services to their own people.”
Africa to Get Its Own Disease Control Center
At the same time, the Deputy Director for International Cooperation disclosed that in the next three years China will complete the construction of Africa’s first Center for Disease Control (ACDC). It will be built at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, and there are future plans to also setup five regional sub-centers across the continent.
China says there’s increasing need for Africa to have its own high standard medical research facility due to the risk of viral diseases like Ebola that have overwhelmed the continent in recent years.
The proposed ACDC will reinforce laboratory and diagnostic capacities on the continent and Beijing maintains it will continue to send medical teams to Africa, support investments by Chinese medical and health products industries, and encourage Chinese enterprises to jointly operate hospitals in Africa.
The PRC is also strengthening high-level dialogue in health; incorporate the ministerial Forum on China-Africa Health Cooperation as an official sub-forum under the framework of Forum on China Africa Cooperation.
Between 2013 and 2017, China has held high level meetings with African health ministries, signed eight bilateral and three corporation agreements and increased support to the continent.
The Asian nation held 113 courses, trained over 2,100 persons, provided 812 medical scholarships to Africa in 2015. Since 2014 China has conducted free cataract surgeries in Botswana, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Ghana, Morocco, Burundi, and Sierra Leone.
And the country’s support to West Africa during the Ebola outbreak was rated one of the highest when it sent over 1,200 health professionals to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, made cash and material donations which included ambulance, motorcycles and protective gears.
The construction of a 100 beds treatment center in Liberia and 75 beds holding and treatment center in Sierra Leone were also major interventions. There has also been recent public health training for almost 12,500 people in 13 countries.
Supporting Anti Malaria, maternal and child mortality
There are still looming concerns including tackling malaria and maternal mortality - two of Africa’s major challenges.
The World Health Organization says the disease remains a major killer of children, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa - taking the life of a child every 2 minutes.
The UN agency says 90% of the total malaria deaths in 2015 occurred on the continent and in same year, there were 438,000 deaths from malaria globally, and about 306,000 of these were children under 5 years of age.
For maternal mortality and under five deaths, UNICEF adds that developing countries with low income are at risk – with one death occurring in every 41 live births.
With its new health package to Africa, China announced it will donate anti malaria (artemisinin) drugs to five million people on the continent and will encourage Chinese pharmaceuticals companies to invest in Africa’s health sector.
“We will design a project with the UNFPA to implement projects in Africa, and the plan will be according to the WHO guidelines,” Mr. Feng said.
Tackling Fake Drugs
Meanwhile, responding to concerns about the huge presence of fake drugs in Africa that are allegedly imported from Asia including China, Mr. Feng described the situation as a ‘very big problem and complex issue’.
He said many African countries lack the capacity to supervise the quality of drugs due to the absence of quality control mechanism or technical support, but added that China is also willing to partner with Africa to deal with the problem.
“We will like to support and improve the capacity of African countries to improve drug quality,” he said, adding that the agency responsible, Food and Drug Authority, is working with some African countries’ ministry of health to improve their capacity.
“You need to have your own system to detect fake drugs – control borders and have the techniques to control the importation of drugs because they are smuggled into the country,” Feng said.
The Chinese health official then advised African health authorities and importers to procure drugs through official channel by importing from recognized pharmaceuticals companies in China.
He warned that importing from companies unrecognized by the Chinese government makes it difficult to curb fake drugs in Africa.