By Xinhua writers Tian Ying, Li Na
BEIJING, Aug. 17 (Xinhua) -- As China marks the 50th anniversary of the first medical aid mission sent to Africa, China is expected to play a greater role in supporting health system in the continent.
African health officials from 48 countries participating the Ministerial Forum of China-Africa Health Development on Friday and various specialized seminars on Saturday recognized China's roles in improving their countries' health systems and expressed hopes that China can help them build health capacity.
"We salute the seriousness with which the Chinese people and Chinese government attach to cooperation with Africa in health sector, and this forum also shows the seriousness of Africa, as more than 40 health ministers participated," Dr. Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda, health minister of the Republic of Uganda, told Xinhua.
He said "China's aid supports our needs, and we think is helping to build capacity of the people in Uganda and also in Africa."
Kassim Issak Osman, health minister of the Republic of Djibouti, introduced that the country has begun receiving medical aid from China shortly after its independence.
Apart from sending medical teams, China has donated medical devices and a hospital with 120 beds and five Chinese health workers, as well as considerable amount of drugs, such as drugs treating tuberculosis.
"China is a partner that we can trust at any time," Osman said.
WHY CHINA'S HELP WELCOMED
"China-Africa health cooperation is based on mutual respect," said Dr. Rugunda.
"China has stood by Africa during the time of war, supported Africa's liberation movements," he said, "China is not investing in order to get money, but to support people who are fighting for their freedom, and to support people who are building capacity to rely on themselves."
He rejected the allegations that China is exercising a type of neo-colonialism in Africa, "China does not impose aid. It is Africans who ask for this aid."
Osman said China offers free assistance to Djibouti despite the fact that the country has almost nothing that China can capitalize on.
China's experience in improving primary health care is especially relevant to Africa, according to Dr. Mercy Ahun, special representative for GAVI Eligible Countries, GAVI Alliance, while attending the forum.
As China also started from a very low level in terms of primary health care, China's experiences are more applicable to African countries as compared to western ones, she argued.
Besides, China's manufacturers can bring down prices of African drugs, which addresses affordability of health care, the biggest hurdle in improving African people's health, Dr. Ahun said.
BUILDING CAPACITY FOR SELF RELIANCE
African ministers repeatedly expressed hopes that China can help them build capacity so that their health systems can improve sustainably.
Dr. Rugunda said China already embarked on this work. "Chinese medical teams send different specialists to different African countries, they help train nurses, doctors, and health workers specialized in those fields," he deemed training essential to capacity building.
China donated a hospital to Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, called Naguru Friendship Hospital, according to him. The hospital is staffed by both Chinese and local doctors, and Chinese doctors, apart from treating patients, also serve as tutors.
"Chinese doctors speak fairly good English, enough for treating patients, and enough for training, " he said.
Osman expressed hopes that Djibouti can learn more technologies and experiences from China so as to take charge of their own people's needs in the future.
Building capacity is also the direction China mapped out for future medical aid to Africa.
Li Bin, head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), lately said China will help aid target countries with medical education, as well as transfer both regular and high-end medical technology to them.
Moreover, the capacity of drug manufacturing is also urgently needed by African countries.
Kondi Charles AGBA, the health minister of Togo, said "We hope China can help us manufacture vaccines. Only by being able to produce vaccines ourselves, can we lower the cost of immunization." Right now, the country's vaccines are donated by GAVI Alliance.
When meeting with African health officials, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday said China will continue to send medical teams and cataract surgeons to Africa and will deepen cooperation and health personnel training in maternal and child health care.