Medics on a mission to save lives in Africa

By Yuan Shenggao (China Daily)

Updated: 2022-01-14


Shanxi's 21st medical assistance team to Djibouti bids farewell to Taiyuan on Jan 5. [Photo by Guo Jun for China Daily]

At the departure lounge of Taiyuan Wusu International Airport, a group of medics were sent off by their relatives, friends and colleagues on Jan 5.

They were members of the Shanxi medical team ready to leave for the African country of Djibouti for a yearlong assistance mission.

The medical team is composed of 12 members from five hospitals in the cities of Jinzhong, Xinzhou and Taiyuan.

Zhou Naizhong, 51, is the oldest member of the team. An expert in acupuncture, he is a doctor from the Secondary Hospital Affiliated to the Shanxi Medical University.

"I was told by my colleagues in Africa that acupuncture is well-received by the locals," Zhou said. "I joined this team in the hope to promote the traditional Chinese medical science to Africa."

Zhao Ke is a doctor at the gastroenterology department of the No 1 Hospital of Jinzhong. He said while helping the locals fight disease, he hopes this mission in Djibouti can broaden his vision and build up his experiences.

"Experience is the most important thing for a medic," Zhao said. "There are a number of unique digestion system diseases in Africa caused by local viruses, bacteria and parasites. A study of these will be a good opportunity for me to accumulate experience."

Hou Wei is the head of the team. When he was ready to depart from Shanxi, he was concerned with his mother who was in poor health.

He said his 85-year-old mother underwent an operation for rectal cancer two years ago.

"The operation was successful at the time but metastasis of cancer cells was detected last year,"Hou said. "This is something that worries me a lot."

He said his mother was reluctant to be hospitalized despite his repeated calls as she wanted to spend Spring Festival, which falls on Feb 1 this year, at home.

But when his mother heard about his African mission, she agreed to go to hospital if she feels unwell. He said that made him relieved to some extent.

Hou's team is the 21st that Shanxi has sent to Djibouti. Since the late 1960s, Shanxi has dispatched more than 60 teams and more than 1,300 medical workers to the three African countries of Cameroon, Togo and Djibouti.

The teams have helped locals fight various diseases, including Ebola, malaria and hemorrhagic fever. The team members' professionalism and devotion have been widely recognized by locals and 256 of them have won various honorary titles from the three governments.

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.

Guo Yanjie contributed to this story.