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China's 51 years of medical assistance to Africa

Xinhua| Updated: 2014-05-06

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome came to Alert Hospital in Addis Ababa to visit Ethiopian patients who had benefited from China's “Bright Journey” free cataract surgery campaign on May 6, 2014. [Photo/Xinhua]

May 6 was the day for removing the gauzes of the patients who had received the surgeries provided by the "Bright Journey" campaign. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang personally removed the gauzes for two cataract patients who had undergone surgeries by Chinese doctors. As Li said, although the action of removing gauze is small, the efforts of Chinese and African doctors are great, and the action symbolizes the achievements of China’s 51 years of adherence to providing medical aid to Africa.

Li said, “I just removed the small obstacles in front of the patients' eyes and made them see the light again. While the doctors and nurses who brought great love to Africa are the true messengers of light and angles in white. I pay a high respect to you.”

The China-Africa “Bright Journey” campaign began in 2010, and has been carried out in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and elsewhere. China has created a team of outstanding ophthalmologists, who have already brought light to more than 2,000 African cataract patients.

The "Bright Journey" campaign is only a part of China's medical assistance to Africa. China has provided medical assistance to the continent for 51 years and fulfilled its commitment to African countries. American scholar Deborah Brautigam quoted the South African media in the book The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa, saying that such gift is both practical and generous. It was sent silently for 50 years (until 2013): China's medical assistance to Africa.

In 1963, in response to a call for emergency medical assistance for Algeria, the Chinese government sent the best medical personnel to that country, though itself  faced serious economic difficulties at that time. This was China's first medical assistance to Africa.

As of 2013 China had provided medical assistance to African for 50 years. It has dispatched more than 20,000 medical personnel to 51 countries and regions in Africa, and has treated hundreds of millions of patients and trained tens of thousands of medical personnel.

The 51-year medical assistance has deepened the friendship between Chinese and African people and conveyed the spirit of spreading love. In the vast African land, from the Sahara Desert to the Great Rift Valley, from Victoria Falls to Kilimanjaro, Chinese medical teams have conquered all the hardships and practiced humanitarian life saving.

In many African countries, people lived in poverty, and lacked medical care in face of prevalent disease. Under these circumstances Chinese medical team members overcame all the difficulties in a spirit of perseverance. In the early days, there was no electricity, so the medical team members used flashlights as the power source; there was no operating table, so they used ordinary beds instead; there were not enough utensils, so the members washed and disinfected the lunch boxes that they brought off the plane and used the boxes as utensils. Faced with a lack of materials and equipment, they carried out rescue work with simple inspection equipment and surgical instruments according to local conditions. Later, they introduced new technologies and tools, and innovated many advanced medical technologies such as minimally invasive surgery and tumor removal to better serve patients in the recipient countries.

Most of the countries in Africa are located in the tropics, with poor sanitary conditions. The mosquitoes there often carry infectious diseases. While treating the local people, the medical team members themselves were also threatened by these diseases, but they still engaged in the assistance, some of them even dedicating their lives. 

It is better to teach one to fish than to give him a fish. The Chinese medical team not only treated diseases in Africa, but also left many legacies. The Chinese medical team cultivated many medical personnel through clinical teaching and observation and academic lectures and supplied medicine and equipment to the local people.

During the past half century the doctors and nurses, known in Africa as "diplomats in white", have been far away from their homeland and "brought great love to Africa" as Premier Li Keqiang said. They have built profound friendship with local people, and gained great popularity in their eyes. 


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