…Zimbabwe a beneficiary of Chinese medical cooperation since 1895

China’s medical cooperation in Africa comes of age

CHINA’S medical cooperation with Africa started in 1963 in Algeria after it had won the liberation war movement. The  French medical staff withdrew their service leading to the country requesting international medical assistance which China heeded.

For the past 60 years, China has dispatched medical teams to Africa. In 2018, 45 countries had benefited from the Chinese medical cooperation. Medical teams are made up of doctors from internal medicine, surgical department, gynaecology department and paediatrics department.

Some are experts in Western medicine whilst others specialise in traditional Chinese medicine.

Chinese medical teams have efficiently delivered critical medical services in Africa. The major highlight of their assistance has been their eradication of Ebola in West Africa in 2014.

They have successfully contained plague outbreaks in Africa. Angola, Madagascar and Guyana have all benefitted from their control of yellow fever and Zika.

In addition, their personnel have successfully performed difficult operations such as cardiac surgery, tumor removal and amputated limb replantation.

They have also taught and trained local medical staff medical skills by clinical teaching and joint surgery.

The Chinese government has supported the construction of public health systems as part of its medical assistance initiatives in Africa.

Recently, China completed the US$80 million African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The centre is set to improve the capacity for Disease prevention and control in Africa.

The second phase will involve the construction of the Africa CDC’s five regional collaborating centres in Egypt, Gabon, Nigeria, Zambia and Kenya.

Furthermore, Chinese medical cooperation with the African continent is noted in its aiding the fight against the COVID 19 pandemic. Beijing pledged 1 Billion doses to Africa at the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC).

Zimbabwe is one of the African countries that has a long shared medical history of cooperation with China. The first team arrived in 1985, five years after the establishment of China-Zimbabwe relations. To date, China has dispatched 19 medical teams to the country.

Beijing’s usual approach is to sign a bilateral agreement and then to identify a province in China to provide the medical personnel, appearing under the Ministry of Health.

The first such agreement was signed in 1983, with Hunan province responsible for providing the medical team to Zimbabwe.

The Chinese medical teams have provided various medical assistance using both Western and traditional medicine. Their 19th batch of medical teams provided maternal and health care project at Parirenyatwa.

Equipment for early diagnosis of maternal health conditions was provisioned for as well.  China has immensely contributed in the fight against the COVID 19 pandemic in Zimbabwe.

Apart from providing medical staff to combat the virulent disease at the request of the Zimbabwean government,  China donated a total of 12 million doses enabling inoculation against it. It also enabled the purchasing of vaccines aiding containment of COVID 19 in the country.

China also launched 2010 China-Africa Brightness Action, a charitable initiative giving patients with cataracts in Zimbabwe and Malawi access to free vision rehabilitation surgeries.

In 2010, 307 eye surgeries were performed on Zimbabwean cataract patients. Additionally, China opened a traditional Chinese medicine and Acupuncture Centre at Parirenyatwa  hospital. In 2021, more than 150 people suffering from various ailments such as lumbar spine pain, diabetes, hernia and hypertension had received assistance free of charge.

Local health workers were last year trained in a 3 month long program in Acupuncture. This was to done to necessitate  meeting its growing demand in the country.

Moreover, medical cooperation by China has extended to an upgrade of Mahusekwa hospital in Mashonaland East, the renovation of Wilkins Hospital and the construction of rural clinics in the country.

The medical cooperation being pursued by China on the continent, Zimbabwe included is modelled under the Health Silk Road of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which prioritises the African continent’s health.

The BRI is a framework by the Chinese government under the leadership of Xi Jinping for the promotion of international economic cooperation.

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