A worker pulls a consignment of medical supplies, donated by Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundations to Kenya, at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, capital of Kenya. Photo by: John Okoyo/Xinhua
A worker pulls a consignment of medical supplies, donated by Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundations to Kenya, at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, capital of Kenya. Photo by: John Okoyo/Xinhua

Chinese help boosts confidence in the fight Covid-19 in hospitals across Africa

By Xinhua Time of article published Apr 9, 2020

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ADDIS ABABA - Solomon Ayele, a nurse at an Ethiopian hospital, is defying fear on the frontline of the war against Covid-19, while Africa is bracing for its most difficult time.

On Tuesday, confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus surpassed 10,000 in Africa, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally, and a more troubling crisis looms due to a lack of medical supplies on the continent.

Fortunately, leaders of African countries have already proactively implemented prevention and control measures such as allocating funds, locking down cities and mobilising medical resources to slow the virus spread. And the international community has also stepped in to help.

More and more medical supplies from China and other countries have been distributed to health workers like Ayele to help them fight the common enemy and safeguard their shared future.

Unified efforts

"African countries are fighting the coronavirus against all odds," Ayele said, emphasising that Covid-19 prevention and control "greatly requires adequate financing and well-built capacity."

A lack of medical equipment and experience had restricted his capacity to deal with the increasing caseload.

As a major transit hub in Africa, Ethiopia is among more than a dozen countries the World Health Organisation considers as a top priority for preparedness against Covid-19.

Since the first confirmed case was reported last month in the country, Ethiopian health authorities have been increasing epidemic response coordination, surveillance, diagnosis and public health education.

The government has also set up quarantine centres and equipped Eko Kotebe Hospital in the capital Addis Ababa where Ayele works to house Covid-19 patients. Ayele is among some 350 healthcare personnel recently trained to help respond to the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.

To alleviate the shortage of medical supplies in Africa, the Chinese government and private sector have stepped up cooperation with African countries.

Jack Ma and Alibaba foundations donated medical supplies for 54 African countries. Photo by: Xinhua

China's Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation announced on Monday that they had sent the second batch of aid to Africa including ventilators, and the shipment is expected to arrive in Addis Ababa soon.

With the help of the Ethiopian government, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and World Food Programme, these supplies will be delivered to each of the 54 African nations.

The first donation, including masks, test kits, protective suits and face shields and guidelines on tackling COVID-19, was distributed to Ayele and his colleagues two weeks ago.

Ayele hailed the help of the Chinese government and the foundations, saying the critical medical supplies will greatly contribute to Africa's fight against the coronavirus.

"The materials would help fill the existing gaps in terms of the pressing shortage of preventive materials and testing kits in Ethiopia and beyond, while the guideline will also help us respond to the epidemic with the latest knowledge based on China's experience," he said.

Ethiopian Airlines used to transport Chinese medical supplies in Addis Ababa. Photo by: REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Ethiopian Airlines, the continent's largest carrier in terms of passenger turnover, will distribute the much-needed donation across the 54 African countries.

Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group, said that the Chinese donation is an exemplary move, demonstrating collaboration and joint efforts in the battle against the epidemic.

"The message is very important. It is a very good example for all over the world that feel panic and blame is not the answer. The answer is organisations, countries, institutions, and governments bringing their resources together to team up to provide this kind of medical supplies for the protection of the people. So, this is a very good example," Gebremariam said.

Solid support 

Although China has made progress in containing the Covid-19 epidemic, its medical supply remains tight. However, its government and people believe that it is imperative to extend a helping hand to friends in Africa to help them overcome their difficulty.

Liu Hongjun is running a clothing factory in China's eastern Zhejiang Province, which has turned to manufacture medical equipment such as masks and protective suits.

Not long ago, Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation contacted Liu. "I know how important these materials mean to African people, thus I accepted it without any hesitation," he said.

"Two shifts have been arranged for key posts, such as protective clothing and mask production lines, in order to ensure the delivery and the quality of the protective materials," Liu added.

Employees work on a production line of surgical masks for export, at a railway equipment manufacturing company in Nanchang, Jiangxi province. Photo by: REUTERS

Tens of thousands of miles away, Ayele and hundreds of Chinese doctors are using the masks and protective suits produced by Chinese factories like Liu's to help African patients.

According to China's National Health Commission, there are almost 1,000 Chinese medical personnel working in Africa and the agency has directed them to help local health organisations stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Since last month, Jiang Yuandong, a member of the Chinese medical team in Zimbabwe, has trained more than 140 health workers and introduced China's experience in containing the outbreak. He also gave a lecture to Zimbabwe's ministry of health officials and medical personnel to improve their understanding of the disease.

"By sending medical experts and medical supplies to other countries to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, China has proved to be a friend in need," said Kitojo Wetengere, a consultant professor of economic diplomacy and former lecturer with the Tanzania-Mozambique Center for Foreign Relations in Dar es Salaam.

A staff member unloads Chinese medical supplies from an aeroplane at the Kotota International Airport in Accra, capital of Ghana. Photo by: Xinhua/Xu Zheng

Close bond

On Monday, another batch of Chinese medical supplies arrived in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, and will be delivered to 17 other African countries within a few days.

"This effort shows China's firm commitment to the China-Africa relations and further strengthens the strong historical bonds between China and Africa," Chinese Ambassador to Ghana Wang Shiting said at the Accra airport.

Since the coronavirus was spreading in Africa, China has overcome its difficulties to actively assist the African Union and African countries with anti-epidemic supplies, and organise video conferences for medical experts to share the experience.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has deployed a senior technical advisor to Africa CDC to closely work with local experts. More Chinese health experts are on their way to various African countries.

Staff members unload the medical supplies from China at the airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March. Photo by: Xinhua/Wang Shoubao

In a phone conversation with Namibian President Hage Geingob on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China will continue to step up assistance for African countries in combating the Covid-19 epidemic.

During the most difficult period of China's fight against Covid-19, African countries provided China with valuable support, which will be engraved in the hearts of the Chinese people, Xi said.

Chinese enterprises and non-governmental organisations have also extended a helping hand to African countries, he added, pointing out that all these are true manifestations of the China-Africa community with a shared future.

Leaders of African countries have expressed their gratitude for China's help and confidence in their victory over Covid-19.

Noting that China is the best friend of Namibia and of Africa, Geingob said he deeply appreciates the Asian country's timely and precious assistance and support to African countries in their fight against the disease.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa spoke highly of "the true act of friendship" that is crucial to Africa's fight against the virus.

"With unity, discipline and cooperation, we can prevail," Mnangagwa said.

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