Humanitarian missions save countless African lives

By Yuan Shenggao (China Daily)

Updated: 2021-04-09


Li Xin (center), a doctor from Shanxi, serves a patient in Cameroon. [Photo by Xue Lin for China Daily]

After journeys of more than 30 hours, two medical assistance teams, numbering 36 professionals from eight hospitals across Shanxi province, arrived in the western and central African countries of Togo and Cameroon on March 26.

It marked the 24th Shanxi medical aid team to Togo and the 21st to Cameroon beginning their yearlong assistance missions.

Nearly five months ago, the latest medical assistance team to Djibouti arrived in the northeastern African country on Nov 14.

The trips to these destinations should have been made several months or even a year earlier, according to the schedule. But the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues caused delay.

Since March last year, the pandemic has been a big challenge to missions across Africa.

According to the World Health Organization's figures, there were 57,337 accumulative confirmed cases and 851 deaths in Cameroon by April 7. The figures were 11,310 and 113 in Togo and 9,111 and 85 in Djibouti.

The 20th team to Djibouti, for instance, should have begun its mission in March last year. But the members had to stay in Shanxi until November.

"During the long wait, our team members studied French at Shanxi University," said Liu Wencao, head of the medical team. French is one of Djibouti's official languages.

Liu said the training helped members of the aid team better integrate with local society.

The team members also took part in the control and prevention of the novel coronavirus epidemic in China, giving them experience for responding to the COVID-19 situation in Djibouti.

The delay meant longer missions for the Shanxi aid teams due to leave the three countries.

Despite the difficulties, those doctors had contributed to the local healthcare sectors by sharing their experience and training local medical workers.

Since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread to Africa, the Shanxi medical workers stationed there have made a special contribution to local virus control and prevention. They have done this by sharing their experience and solutions from Shanxi and China. Their efforts and dedication have been recognized by the residents, according to Wu Guoqiang, an official in charge of international cooperation at the Shanxi Health Commission.

Since 1975, Shanxi has dispatched a total of 61 teams and 1,311 medical workers to countries across Africa. The teams have helped locals fight various diseases, including Ebola, malaria and hemorrhagic fever.

The Shanxi medical teams are an important part of China's medical assistance to Africa.

China began to dispatch medical teams to Africa in 1963. During the 56 years from 1963-2019, more than 26,000 Chinese medics have worked in their assistance missions in Africa, serving a total of 280 million patients.

Xue Lin contributed to this story.